Andrew Rimby (SUNY Stony Brook University)
In 1860, Walt Whitman, begins his poem “I Dreamed in a Dream” with this vision of an idyllic city: “I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth; I dream’d that was the new City of Friends; Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love— it led the rest” (1-5). Though presented as a utopian city formed in a dream, the City of Friends, in the 19th century, was a slogan used to refer to Philadelphia. The allusion to friends references the foundation of Philly by William Penn, a Quaker. It is this Quaker heritage that Whitman connects to his vision of Comradeship in which men of different backgrounds and cultures will lovingly embrace one another. What better place for Whitman’s vision to take place than in Philadelphia, its Greek name meaning “the City of Brotherly Love."
Using Whitman’s 19th-century poetic view of Philly as a city overflowing with love, sheds light on Philly’s role as America’s city of brotherly and sisterly [my addition] love. This panel seeks to explore why Whitman chose Philly as the ideal site for his theory of Comradeship. What is it about Philly, in the 19th century, that would allow for queer relations (homosocial and/or homoerotic) to flow?
To begin answering this question, we must first start identifying queer relations that occur in 19th century Philly authors’ texts. Whitman is one of many authors exploring Philly as a site of queer relations in the 19th century. Other authors include Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, George Lippard, and Bayard Taylor. This panel seeks papers that explore queer relations in 19th-century Philly literature and asks what is queer in the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love?
This panel questions the multifaceted ways in which men and women exhibit queer desire in 19th-century Philadelphia literature. Papers should seek to explore this question from a queer cultural historical perspective. This panel emphasizes how queer studies relies on cultural historical methodology to ask what makes Philadelphia such a queer city?