Skip to main content

These lines offer an instance of the paradoxical anti-institutional institutionalism . . . central to Whitman’s work. Here, this ambivalent stance might be understood as a particular response to a particular predicament: Whitman is simultaneously seeking to establish a tradition of homosexual ritual and struggling to distinguish it from the entrenched mores and ceremonies of the dominant heterosexual culture. The strain involved in this adversarial stance, and more especially in the attempt to authorize it by romanticizing it, shows up in the oxymoronic notion of an institution devoid of institutional paraphernalia.