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The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England
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  • 29 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 512 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.75 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 306.76/63/0942
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: HQ75.6.E5 T73 2002
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Lesbianism--England--History--16th century
    • Lesbianism--England--History--17th century
    • Lesbianism in literature
    • Lesbians in literature
    • South Australian Fabian Society--History

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521448857 | ISBN-10: 0521448859)

The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England is the eagerly-awaited study by the feminist scholar who was among the first to address the issue of early modern female homoeroticism. Valerie Traub analyzes the representation of female-female love, desire and eroticism in a range of early modern discourses, including poetry, drama, visual arts, pornography and medicine. Contrary to the silence and invisibility typically ascribed to lesbianism in the Renaissance, Traub argues that the early modern period witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of representations of such desire. By means of sophisticated interpretations of a comprehensive set of texts, the book not only charts a crucial shift in representations of female homoeroticism over the course of the seventeenth century, but also offers a provocative genealogy of contemporary lesbianism. A contribution to the history of sexuality and to feminist and queer theory, the book addresses current theoretical preoccupations through the lens of historical inquiry.

• Was the first book to offer a close reading and analysis of the lesbian and homoerotic in early modern English literature and culture • Valerie Traub a major scholar in the field • Draws on fascinating and important primary source material from many aspects of early modern social and cultural life


Acknowledgements; List of illustrations; Introduction: 'practicing impossibilities'; 1. Setting the stage behind the seen: performing Lesbian history; 2. 'A certaine incredible excesse of pleasure': female orgasm, prosthetic pleasures, and the anatomical Pudica; 3. The politics of pleasure; or, queering Queen Elizabeth; 4. The (in)significance of Lesbian desire; 5. The psychomorphology of the clitoris; or, the reemergence of the Tribade in England; 6. Chaste femme love, mythological pastoral, and the perversion of Lesbian desire; 7. 'Friendship so curst': Amor Impossibilia, the homoerotic lament, and the nature of Lesbian desire; 8. The quest for origins, erotic similitude, and the melancholy of Lesbian identification; Notes; Index.


'Breathtaking in its knowledge and dazzling in its analysis, The Renaissance of Lesbianism shows us how female same-sex desires become not only legible but pivotal during the course of the English Renaissance. Traub's brilliant readings of sexual representation, both in early modern texts and in the scholarly imagination today, turn the screw of interpretation on figures from Queen Elizabeth to Katherine Philips and on topics from terminology to teleology. This synthesis of 'theory' and 'history' sets a new standard for lesbian scholarship and opens new paths for studying both sexuality and early modernity.' Susan Lanser, Brandeis University

'The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England is a dazzling achievment. Analyzing an extraordinary range of texts and visual artifacts, Traub changes the very terms through which it is possible to read forms of female intimacy in Early Modern England. Her work on the tribade, on female friendship, and on the psychomorphology of the clitoris is pathbreaking. Theoretically deft and immensely learned, The Renaissance of Lesbianism is without question one of the most important books of the decade in Early Modern studies.' Jean Howard

'One of the most significant books to be published in 2001 … A tour de force of theoretically informed inquiry, this is cultural history at its most powerful and elegant - completely rewriting the history of sexuality in the 17th century.' Recent Studies in the English Renaissance

'…[F]rank and enabling engagement with large methodological debates about sexuality…'. The Times Literary Supplement

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