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The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England

The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England

$56.99 (C)

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: July 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521448857

$ 56.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • 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 ascribed to lesbianism in the Renaissance, Traub argues that the early modern period witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of representations of such desire. As 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
    Read more


    • Winner of the 2002 Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Traub's compellingly argued study contributes significantly to early modern scholarship not only on sexuality, but also on gender, anatomical science, marriage and the family, poetic and dramatic texts, classical mythology, women writers and royal icongraphy ... [S]he has undeniably given us a wealth of knowledge about its history and a model of scholarship for interpreting its significance that cannot be ignored." Seventeenth-Century News

    "More than an 'attempt,' this achievement will be foundational for the next generation of lesbian/queer/gay scholarship, ranging well beyond early modernism. The book's richness cannot be abstracted in a short review.... Her revelation and delightful readings of numerous textual sites is a second pleasure, and her sweeping historical lens, with keen attention to discursive and epistemological shifts, fault lines, and crises, is a third. Essential." Choice

    "...engagingly written...Traub's erudite and complex book is a major contribution not only to early modern criticism but also to the history of sexuality in the early modern West." Journal of the History of Sexuality

    "One of the most significant books to be published in 2001 is Valerie Traub's. [Her] book not only brilliantly locates a lost history of female-female eroticism, it also narrates a history that almost entirely changes our sense of the development of heterosexuality during the seventeenth entury." Studies in English Literature

    "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 seventeenth century." Recent Sudies in the English Renaissance (UK)

    "Professor Traub's scholarship is prodigious, her critical acumen impressive. We will be recalling with pleasure for years to come the stories she has brought to our attention; for her capacious study provides a rich and welcome store of material for future argument and debate." Renaissance Quarterly

    "The history of all sexual deviance is, by the nature of the subject, difficult to trace, but Ms. Traub does a dazzling job and the text has fine pictorial as well as literary illustrations. How did lesbians then 'do it'--and how do they 'do it' now? She tells what she knows. This book presents both a kind of genesis (though Sappho much predated the Early Modern and surely she was not the first) and a sort of genealogy of certain sexual activities.... The author comments on the 'eerie familiarity' of certain past practices.... This serious contribution to sexual history is written in the style of modern feminists but is readable and worth reading by all." Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

    " impressively thorough study...An intervention in several different discursive strands, The Renaissance of Lesbianism will appeal to scholars in English and continental cultural, literary, historical, and art historical studies. This is a book that uses what has come before as a starting point rather than a guidebook, and that successfully avoids being constrained by dominant critical ideologies. Traub's work is packed and eloquent, and each chapter provides a delightful surprise for the reader in search of innovative close readings." Sixteenth Century Journal

    "[Traub's] book is extremely learned as well as dignified and persuasive...This book ought to improve your vision." Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

    "This theoretically imaginative and informed monograph is a must-read for anyone interested in early modern gender or social history. Scholars of drama will benefit from the analyses of theatrical texts that constitute a third of Traub's material but may find themselves most enlightened by her rejuvenation of the common currency of feminist studies--concepts such as friendship, chastity, and transvestism." Essays in Theatre Lisa Celovsky, Suffolk University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2002
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521448857
    • length: 512 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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

  • Author

    Valerie Traub, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    Valerie Traub is Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and author of numerous works on gay/lesbian studies, including the book Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama and coeditor of Feminist Readings in Early Modern Culture: Emerging Subjects.


    • Winner of the 2002 Best Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women

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