Eric Keenaghan

Eric Keenaghan

Associate Professor, Department Chair
CV340.6 KB


Humanities 343

PhD, Temple University
MA, Temple University
BA, Amherst College

Prof. Eric Keenaghan

Eric Keenaghan focuses his research on the political and ethical dimensions of modernist and cold war poetries, particularly in work by LGBTQ-identified writers. He also has published and forthcoming work on teaching poetry, canonical high modernism, translation, and 20th- and 21st-century women's experimental poetry and fiction. He is the author of Queering Cold War Poetry: Ethics of Vulnerability in Cuba and the United States (Ohio State University Press, 2009) and an advisory editor for the Journal of Modern Literature.   

Currently, he is developing two new critical monographs. The first, The Impersonal Is Political: Late Modernism and the New American Poetry during the New Left Era, examines how cold war poet-activists associated with the antiwar, ecology, feminist, civil rights, black power, and gay liberation movements translated a practice of modernist "impersonality" into their activist ethos. Consequently, their work reminds us that personal politics are not rooted exclusively in private experience and that activist poetry can differ from confessional verse or agitprop. Instead, personal politics and the poetry reflecting them often are matters of conditionality since the "private" human subject is bodily and affectively coextensive with its public environs. A second book project, Life, Love, and War: Anarchist Pacifism, Antifascism, and Twentieth-Century American Poetry, explores the archived and published writings of self-identified anarchist and antifascist poets and poet-activists interested in promoting forms of peace. Their pacifist views cover a broad spectrum of possibilities, ranging from "just warism" to "absolute pacifism." These poets' experimentation with form and subject matter can inform our ideas about how, in a time of war, art and poetry still has a social role and political life, even if--as W.H. Auden famously claimed--"poetry makes nothing happen."   

Over the last several years, a chief subject of Professor Keenaghan's research has been modernist poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser, and he is working with collective of other scholars to develop new recovery and critical projects about her life and work. He is editing The Usable Truth and Other Selected Prose, a collection that recovers some of Rukeyser's forgotten or suppressed shorter-form nonfiction including her essays, journalism, activist writings, and lectures. A piece from this volume, the previously unpublished essay "Many Keys" (1957), recently appeared in Feminist Modernist Studies.

Professor Keenaghan teaches graduate and undergraduate courses about modernist poetry, cold war and contemporary poetry, literature of the Left and new social movements, queer and gender studies, political philosophy, and literary theory.


Queering Cold War Poetry: Ethics of Vulnerability in Cuba and the United States (Ohio State University Press, 2009)

Select recent journal articles and book chapters

"Past, Present, and Potential: Teaching LGBT+ Poetry Historically." Curricular Innovations: LGBTQ Literatures and the New English Studies, edited by John Pruitt and Will Banks. Peter Lang, 2019, pp. 53-70.

"The Political Experiment of 'Pot-Boylers': Thinking, Feeling, and Romance in Kay Boyle's French Resistance Thriller Avalanche." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 48, no. 3, Fall 2018, pp. 339-77. Special issue: "Women's Experimental Forms," edited by Rowena Kennedy-Epstein. See JNT's blog for a "featured author" post about the motivation for this essay.

"The Life of Politics: The Compositional History of The Life of Poetry and Muriel Rukeyser's Changing Appraisal of Emotion and Belief." Textual Practice, vol. 32, no. 7, September 2018, pp. 1103-26. Special issue: "Muriel Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry," edited by Catherine Gander. A free e-print of this article is now available. 

"There Is No Glass Woman: Muriel Rukeyser's Lost Feminist Essay 'Many Keys.'" Introduction to "Many Keys," by Muriel Rukeyser, edited by Keenaghan. Feminist Modernist Studies, vol. 1, nos. 1-2, 2018, pp. 186-204. Special issue: "Toward Feminist Modernisms," edited by Cassandra Laity. A free e-print of this article is now available.

"The Impersonal Is Political: On the Living Theatre and William Carlos Williams's Many Loves." The William Carlos Williams Review, vol. 33, nos. 1-2, 2016, pp. 101-27. Special issue: "The New Williams," edited by Jen Phillis and Neri Sandoval. Recipient of the William Carlos Williams Society's Walter Scott Peterson Award for 2016, recognizing the best essay published in the William Carlos Williams Review that year. 

"Queer Poetry, Between ‘As Is” and “As If.’” The Cambridge Companion to American Gay and Lesbian Literature, edited by Scott Herring. Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 44-58. Volume named Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015.

Select recent book reviews and review essays

Review of A Curious Peril: H.D.'s Late Modernist Prose, by Lara Vetter. Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 37, no. 4, Fall 2018, pp. 460-3.

Review of The Transmutation of Love and Avant-Garde Poetics, by Jeanne Heuving. MLQ (Modern Language Quarterly): A Journal of Literary History, vol. 79, no. 1, March 2018, pp.117-21.

The Archive and the Alchemical Will: On Critics’ Historicism and Poets’ Vision in Two Recent Recoveries of H.D.’s and Pound’s Lost Writings.” Review of Ezra Pound’s Eriugena, by Mark Byron; and Within the Walls and What Do I Love, by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and edited by Annette Debo. Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 39, no. 3, Spring 2016, 123-40.


Current courses (Spring 2020)
Undergraduate level
* American Experiences: Introduction to LGBTQ2+ Literature (Honors College, TENG 240): Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) persons have used literature to find our own voices, to contest our oppression, and to represent our own experiences. This course sets out to provide both allied and LGBTQ2-identified students a general introduction to LGBTQ2 history in the United States, from the turn of the twentieth century until today, and major literary texts produced out of those cultural, social, and political experiences by LGBTQ2 poets, fiction writers, and playwrights. We will consider such questions as: How has LGBTQ2 literature changed over the last century and a quarter? How has varying constructions of, and preconceptions about, LGBTQ2 identities affected queer persons’ self-representation? At the time of their writing, did LGBTQ2 authors imagine their work could transform the experiences of other people like themselves? Does their literature foreground the need to transform understandings and oppressions of sexual and gender difference? Or, because of issues such as war culture, capitalism and imperialism, and intersectionality (i.e., the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, class, citizenship status, and other identities), was gender or sexual difference only part of what they sought to transform? How do our assessments of their work today differ from how the authors themselves or their contemporaries saw their work?

Graduate level
* Personal Politics and Impersonal Poetics (AENG 615): Between 1960 and 1980, amongst the New Left an activist rhetoric about “personal politics” emerged. It was not entirely new, of course. In the United States, such ideas—albeit without the catchphrase—had been common amongst anarchist, libertarian, and Popular Front activists. But the idea that individual personhood and collectivity or mutual aid were not mutually exclusive assumed more legitimacy in later decades. Before the emergence of the New Left and its related predecessor movements, especially the Civil Rights movement, socially progressive and radical writers affiliated with the New American Poetry or contemporaneous groups came into prominence. Carrying on the legacy of interwar modernism, these poets were invested in versions of an earlier modernist “impersonal poetics” that seems to run contrary to activists’ advocacy of personal freedom and the writers’ own rhetoric about personhood, freedom, and individualism. We will study such authors as Paul Goodman, Julian Beck and Judith Malina (of the Living Theatre), Muriel Rukeyser, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Walter Lowenfels, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Franklin and Penelope Rosemont (of the Chicago Surrealists), and John Wieners. 

Select past courses
Graduate level: Queer Poetry and Politics; American Lyric Refigured; Modern Imagination and the Poetics of Possibility; The William Carlos Williams Era; American Modernist Poetry; Modernism and Pragmatism 

Undergraduate level: Modernist American Poetry, 1900-1950; Cold War Poetry: The Beats and the Black Mountain School; Creating Publics [on US public intellectuals] (English Honors); How Sex Tells, How Sex Sells; Queer American Poetry and Politics; The Art of War (Honors College)


Eric Keenaghan, "Openings: Some Notes on the Political in 'Drafts'" (a lyric essay on Rachel Blau DuPlessis' Drafts, published in Jacket2)

Eric Keenaghan, from Love Letters to My Husband (original poems, published in Barzakh)

Eric Keenaghan, A radio interview on Ralph Waldo Emerson and commonality (recorded for Against the Grain, broadcast on KPFA and WBAI)