American Literature / Biography / Gay Studies / Poetry

The American Byron
Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck
John W. M. Hallock

"No name in the American poetical world is more firmly established than that of Fitz-Greene Halleck."—Edgar Allan Poe

Hailed in the mid-nineteenth century as the most important American poet of the period, Fitz-Greene Halleck was a close friend of William C. Bryant, an associate of Charles Dickens and Washington Irving, and a celebrity sought out by John Jacob Astor and American presidents. Halleck, an attractive man of wit and charm, was dubbed "the American Byron" because he both employed similar poetic strategies and challenged the most sacred institutions of his day. A large general readership enjoyed his verse, though it was infused with homosexual themes. Indeed, Halleck's love for another man would be fictionalized in Bayard Taylor's novel Joseph and His Friend a century before the Stonewall riots.

In this insightful cultural biography, John W. M. Hallock (a distant relative) portrays Fitz-Greene as a prophet of the literary and sexual revolution of which Walt Whitman would be the messiah. The first biographical study of Halleck in more than fifty years, The American Byron   traces the path to glory and eventual radical decanonization of America's earliest homosexual poet.

"A work that will become required reading for all Americanists.The American Byron   is a very exciting piece of social history that explores a hitherto virtually unknown aspect of sexuality in nineteenth-century America. It should be of great interest to historians, sociologists, anthropologists, social psychologists, and literary critics interested in homosexuality and heterosexuality, and in gender and sexuality in general. A work that wioll become required reading for all Americanists."—Robert K. Martin, author of The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry

"Hallock presents fascinating new empirical data about a poet and a body of evidence that have not, until now, been studied for what they reveal about sexual and affectional relationships between men in the nineteenth century."—Jonathan Ned Katz, author of The Invention of Heterosexuality

John W. M. Hallock lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been a lecturer at Temple University, where he earned his Ph.D. in English, and is the author of several articles on nineteenth-century literature.

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April 1999
236 pp.      11 b/w illus.     6 x 9
ISBN 0-299-16800-X   Cloth $50.00s
ISBN 0-299-16804-2   Paper $19.95t

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