The Sexuality of Politics in Early Modern English Literature
Melissa E. Sanchez
Hardback, 304 pages
Price: $74.00 $59.20 (06)
Treating sixteenth- and seventeenth-century erotic literature as part of English political history, Erotic Subjects traces some surprising implications of two early modern commonplaces: first, that love is the basis of political consent and obedience, and second, that suffering is an intrinsic part of love. Rather than dismiss such assumptions as mere conventions, Melissa Sanchez uncovers the political import of early modern literature's fascination with eroticized violence.
Focusing on representations of masochism, sexual assault, and cross-gendered identification, Sanchez re-examines the work of politically active writers from Philip Sidney to John Milton. She argues that political allegiance and consent appear far less conscious and deliberate than traditional historical narratives allow when Sidney depicts abjection as a source of both moral authority and sexual arousal; when Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare make it hard to distinguish between rape and seduction; when Mary Wroth and Margaret Cavendish depict women who adore treacherous or abusive lovers; when court masques stress the pleasures of enslavement; or when Milton insists that even Edenic marriage is hopelessly pervaded by aggression and self-loathing. Sanchez shows that this literature constitutes an alternate tradition of political theory that acknowledges the irrational and perverse components of power and thereby disrupts more conventional accounts of politics as driven by self-interest, false consciousness, or brute force.
Erotic Subjects will be of interest to students and scholars of early modern literary and political history, as well as those interested in the histories of gender, sexuality, and affect more generally.
Establishes erotic desire and fantasy as central to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century political thought
Covers a broad historical period to demonstrate the continuing importance of erotic fantasy to political thought from the reign of Elizabeth I to that of Charles II
Provides new and distinctive close readings of a range of major early modern poems, plays, masques, prose romances, and political tracts
"Sympathetic and imaginative, this elegantly written book illuminates the interrelation of eros and politics in ways that are refreshingly honest about the risky but real pleasure of submission to power. Sanchez traces the implications of such pleasure for Renaissance texts by both men and women with a subtlety that makes submitting to Erotic Subjects an unambiguous delight." --Anne Prescott, Barnard College
"This is an accomplished and professional piece of work. Erotic Subjects shows how early modern works overtly concerned with love and desire are in fact fraught with reflection upon contemporary politics, as the relations of wooer and wooed, whether compliant or resistant, allegorize the relations between ruler and ruled. Sanchez writes fluently and engagingly, dealing in complex concepts and their nuances while taking her reader with her." --Helen Hackett, University College London
"That the personal is political has been a truism since the feminist movement of the 1970s. That the political might equally be personal is no less true, but until Sanchez, no one has leveraged this insight to analyze political thinking in Renaissance literature. Sanchez's feminist reading of political attachment is thoroughly informed by a queer theory made perversely and elegantly relevant to a broad range of early modern writers." --Valerie Traub, University of Michigan
304 pages; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4;
About the Author(s)
Melissa E. Sanchez is the Stephen M. Gorn Family Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
Hagiographic Politics in The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia
Tyrannous Seduction in The Faerie Queene
Consent Without Agency in The Rape of Lucrece and Pericles
Political Masochism in Mary Wroth's Urania
Love and Liberty in the Caroline Masque
Law and Desire in Margaret Cavendish's Romances
The Erotics of Republicanism in Paradise Lost