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American Byron: Homosexuality & The Fall Of Fitz-Greene Halleck Paperback – March 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299168042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299168049
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,979,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hallock performs a dual service: he resurrects a significant though largely forgotten poet and he paints a fascinating portrait of homosexual life in 19th-century America. Although praised in his lifetime by such luminaries as Charles Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper and Edgar Allan Poe, Halleck is little known outside of literary circles today. Hallock (a distant relative) argues that one reason for the poet's fall from grace was his homosexuality and the homoerotic themes, however veiled, in his work. Weaving literary biography with cultural history, the author uses Halleck's life and work to give greater depth to well-known aspects of the poet's era (cultural anxieties over intimate male-male relations, urban sexual and bohemian demimondes, repression and coded public communication between homosexuals). Although he sometimes deploys theory as fact (taking as a given, for example, the late John Boswell's assertion that "same-sex unions" were accepted and blessed by the Church in the Middle Ages), overall, his account of American attitudes toward sexuality is quite convincing. As for biography, Hallock centers on Halleck's love for a prominent New York doctor, a love that was fictionalized in the first American homosexual novel, Bayard Taylor's Joseph and His Friend. When Hallock quotes the poet's work, he assesses his subject's words less for the purposes of literary analysis than for the bits of cultural and personal information they contain--making this book not merely a personal biography but a biography of place, time and prevailing attitudes. B&w illus. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

More a social than a poetic genius, Halleck, a favorite of such establishment figures as Charles Dickens, William C. Bryant, and Washington Irving, published satirical verses (often co-written with the married man he loved, Joseph Rodman Drake), though he is best known for editing a first complete edition of Byron's works. Though author Hallock (a Temple University Ph.D. and distant relative of the poet) argues somewhat tendentiously for Halleck's place in the American literary pantheon, he thoroughly delineates the difficulties faced by the gay male in a less understanding age. Certainly, Halleck was not the martyr the title implies--he never really occupied a literary pedestal high enough to fall from--and, in fact, he comes across less as a contemporary of Byron than a forerunner of Whitman. Though Halleck predated Whitman by publishing a free-verse poem, "The Field of Grounded Arms" (criticized by Poe for its "disagreeable versification"), Whitman not only possessed the formidable talent that Halleck lacked but also successfully finessed the troublesome question of sexuality. Recommended only for academic libraries.
-David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bredon on August 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book, an interesting documentary of 18th and 19th homosexuality in America captured my interest though it was a subject I would normally become absolutely bored. Jack's style is so intense that the reader is quickly pulled into his "spell" in the process, becoming immersed in the emotional outpouring of grief as well as the inability of Fitz-Greene Halleck to find any romantic/emotional support which could fill his void. So exemplary are these allusions, this reader was not sure who exactly was being documented. Life did not get any better with the loss of his one love; a love who could never give him what he wanted though it is never clear why. The fact that he was married was an indication that he was "in the closet" and it is not disclosed whether or not a physical/sexual relationship was ever consumated. Dr. Hallock spent much time researching the facts for this book and when finished(10 years of research), it was as if "Fitz-Greene" could finally rest. Enjoyed the book immensely, reading it with Jack's mother in his house in Philadelphia - though it appeared he was able to bring the emotions of Fitz-Greene to life. Well worth the paper back, at least.
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