American modernist Hart Crane’s poem “The Idiot” details the poet’s real-life encounters with a young man with a cognitive disability. Beginning in 1926, Crane worked on the poem through different versions through letters, manuscripts, and magazine publications until about 1932. Crane shuttled the geographic setting of the poem back and forth across the border between Florida and Cuba. With a focus on the material instantiation of these versions, this essay highlights the complex relationship between Crane’s queer speaker and the intellectually disabled man as it moves across national borders. This identification between two people with differently marginalized—and inherently sexualized—identities shifts within and outside the border of the United States, and, in this, Crane explores the nature of social marginalization as it relates to US national identity.
“My Trespass Vision”: Disability, Sexuality, and Nationality in Hart Crane’s Versions of “The Idiot”
Paul Bradley Bellew is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of English at the University of Oregon. He is currently working on a book project exploring the interrelations of material studies and alternative sexuality in the poetry of Amy Lowell, Langston Hughes, and Hart Crane. His interests include modernism and queer theory.
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Paul Bradley Bellew; “My Trespass Vision”: Disability, Sexuality, and Nationality in Hart Crane’s Versions of “The Idiot”. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2016; 62 (1): 56–74. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-3485026
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