A.W. Strouse grew up in a working-class white family in Appalachian Pennsylvania. At 18 years old, Strouse fled to New York City to come out as a cis gay man and to study literature and urban policy at The New School, where he earned a B.A. in 2008.
Subsequently, Strouse worked for two years as a community organizer at United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1500. Strouse participated in a coalition that passed legislation to subsidize food access in low-income neighborhoods.
From 2010 to 2012, Strouse studied medieval sex and gender in the Medieval Studies Master’s Program at Fordham University. Strouse published his M.A. thesis as “Misogynists as Queers in Le Livre de La Cité des Dames,” and investigated the late-antique poet Ausonius.
Strouse also vocally criticized the homophobic strictures of academic professionalism, as he experienced them firsthand; and he contributed to efforts to reform graduate education.
In 2012, Strouse entered the English Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a doctoral candidate, Strouse taught at Hunter College, CUNY. Strouse has also taught at Fordham and at The New School. He has offered courses in essay writing, literary theory, historical linguistics, medieval literature and languages, multi-cultural American literature, theology, and queer theory and history.
In 2017, Strouse received a Ph.D. from CUNY and received a prize for “Most Distinguished Dissertation” in English. Strouse’s doctoral research developed into his first monograph, Form and Foreskin: Medieval Narratives of Circumcision (Fordham UP, 2021). This study locates, within canonical poetry and theology, a queer preoccupation with the foreskin as an emblem of the spiritual meaning that is incarnate in narratological forms.
Strouse’s scholarship has fueled his creative writing, especially as he has endeavored to queerly recuperate lost medieval genres. Inspired by The Book of the City of Ladies and The Legend of Good Women—medieval works that collected accounts of famous women—Strouse wrote a series of poetic portraits for the anonymous men whom he encountered on New York’s subway, Transfer Queen (punctum books, 2018). Similarly inspired by medieval rhyming encyclopedias, Strouse rewrote Judith Butler’s classic work of queer theory into rhyming verse, Gender Trouble Couplets, Vol. 1 (punctum, 2019).
Unfortunately, many of Strouse’s early publications had expressed regrettable arguments that stemmed from Strouse’s ambivalent relationship with white, working-class masculinity. Strouse attempted to work out these conflicts through “Can’t Get There from Here”—a cinematic album of country-western folk songs that celebrate gay, interracial love.
More explicitly, Strouse’s forthcoming book will retract many of his previous essays. Taking inspiration from Saint Augustine—the author of Retractions, Confessions, and City of God—Strouse recently completed the manuscript for The Gentrified City of God: Queer and Medieval New York, from 9/11 to COVID-19.
This book is a queer-theological critique of gentrification. Strouse sets out to explore why gentrification has coincided with the erasure of radical gay sex culture, as well as with the closure of dozens of Catholic churches and charities. In The Gentrified City of God, Strouse argues that the gentrified city is a disciplinary space, enforcing the ascesis of a liberal-capitalist nation-state that is rooted in the Puritanical ethics of theocracy, moralism, individualism, and erotic repression—all of which are modern fundamentalisms, contrary to Augustine’s formulation of the The City of God.
Currently, Strouse is writing a history of gay public sex on the Mexico City subway—a phenomenon that has been salaciously reported by Mexican newspapers and celebrated by major gay, Mexican writers such as Luis Zapata and Carlos Monsiváis, but which warrants fuller study.
author photo by Lola Lafia