Byron: Gender and sexuality

Andrew Elfenbein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


In 1997, when a friend of Andrew Cunanan wanted to defend the gay serial killer's posthumous reputation, Byron helped him to make his case: I know people do not want to hear about [Cunanan's] good qualities, but I feel that if I don't say anything, no one will… The quality I most admired in him was his sensitivity. One of my most treasured possessions is a beautiful book of the poems of Lord Byron that he gave me on my 21st birthday. For this writer, invoking Byron raised Cunanan from the sordid world of drugs, violence, and queer sex with which the media surrounded him. Byron appears in his letter as an icon of high culture, a canonical British poet whose works appear in 'beautiful' books and are appreciated by sensitive men. While it would certainly be possible to read a gay subtext into this letter, in which giving a young man Byron’s poems on his coming of age introduces a gay cultural past, the writer says nothing about sexuality, either his, Cunanan's, or Byron’s. Instead, the gift of Byron’s poems simply proves Cunanan's good character; a man who could like Byron and encourage others in that admiration could not be all bad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Byron
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511999017
ISBN (Print)0521781469, 9780521781466
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


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