A Tour of The Autumnal City: Samuel Delany's Dhalgren

We're going to read Delany's 1970's post-apocalyptic gay science fiction masterpiece. It's difficult, sprawling, and weird. It famously deals with questions of race, sexuality, and gender, but also—and perhaps more importantly—with questions of poetics, identity and authorship, violence, and madness. We will take up these questions and undoubtedly more. Classes will be strictly text-centered and discussion-based; there will be no lecture. We will also attempt a collaborative project, which your course facilitator conceives of as a kind of asynchronous discussion. The assignments will be short in length but, while open-ended in content, they will hopefully be rigorous, authentic, and substantive.

We will enter into the autumnal city together—bring your questions!


  • An open mind.
  • The only text will be Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren, and any edition will work. Given the non-standard textual layout of the latter part of the novel, I would recommend against ebook versions (particularly the various .epub and .mobi files floating around on the internet). That being said, a .pdf file based on scanned page images would theoretically suffice, but your course facilitator has never seen one. It's also harder to find at used bookstores than one might expect. The best bet for a used copy would probably be Powell's, Alibris, or Amazon (where they seem to sell for as little as $0.47+$3.99 shipping!). If you cannot afford even the used Amazon version (or if you don't have a credit card, or a mailing address) please email me and we'll try to work something out.

The Boston Public Library and Minuteman systems both have lending copies available:

Time: Classes will meet Wednesday evenings from 6:30pm – 8:00pm.

Place: Boston Common Gazebo (rain location: see schedule)

Tour Guide: John McWhirter

Cost: Free, donations are accepted (and even encouraged!).

Schedule: We will begin on May 30th with Part I!

May 30 Read Part I: Prism, Mirror, Lens (54 pages) Rain location: Blue State Coffee http://bit.ly/KTYMuS
June 6 Read Part II: Ruins of Morning (53 pages)
June 13 No Class.
June 20 No Class.
June 27 Read Part III: House of the Ax (170 pages)
July 4 No Class.
July 11 Read Part IV: In Time of Plague
July 18 Read Part V: Creatures of Light and Darkness
July 25 Read Part VI: Palimpsest
August 1 Read Part VII: The Anathēmata: A Plague Journal

To Enroll:

  • You can enroll at any time and catch up.
  • Use the form below (please include an email, phone number, or both).
  • Or, email me: jhmcwhirter (at) gmail (dot) com
  • Or, add a note to the enrollment page.
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