Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English



Faculty Advisor(s)

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt (Thesis Advisor)
Barbara Kitt Seidman & Joe Wilkins (Committee Members)

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America | Poetry


Our conceptualization of sexuality is rooted in gender. Modern, western society defines sexuality as which genders one is and is not attracted to—often appearing as a binary between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Recently, however, queer theorists have begun to push against the idea of binary sexuality altogether.

The interplay between gender and sexuality additionally manifests in the history of literature. Because the two are so intimately intertwined, writing about sexuality necessitates writing about gender. Twenty-One Love Poems by Adrienne Rich and Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy are two poetry collections where, as lesbian poets, gender and sexuality play an important role. Both Twenty-One Love Poems and Rapture draw on the tradition of sonnet sequences, a tradition defined by strict structure and gendered power dynamics. As lesbians with female speaker-poets writing about other women, Rich and Duffy both include and subvert themes and tropes, highlighted by their playing with the prescribed structure. Viewing the collections through the lens of sonnet sequences provides an intriguing perspective for examining the depiction of gender and, by extension, sexuality.