By Susan S. Lanser

The interval of reform, revolution, and response that characterised 17th- and eighteenth-century Europe additionally witnessed an intensified curiosity in lesbians. In medical treatises and orientalist travelogues, in French courtroom gossip and Dutch court docket files, in passionate verse, within the emerging novel, and in cross-dressed flirtations at the English and Spanish degree, poets, playwrights, philosophers, and physicians have been putting sapphic family members earlier than the general public eye.            
 
In The Sexuality of History, Susan S. Lanser exhibits how intimacies among ladies turned harbingers of the trendy, bringing the sapphic into the mainstream of a few of the main major occasions in Western Europe. principles approximately girl same-sex family turned a focus for highbrow and cultural contests among authority and liberty, strength and distinction, hope and accountability, mobility and alter, order and governance. Lanser explores the ways that a traditionally particular curiosity in lesbians intersected with, and motivated, systemic issues that may appear to have little to do with sexuality. Departing from the existing pattern of queer studying wherein students ferret out hidden content material in “closeted” texts, Lanser situates brazenly erotic representations inside of wider spheres of curiosity.  The Sexuality of History indicates that simply as we will be able to comprehend sexuality by way of learning the earlier, so can also we comprehend the prior through learning sexuality.

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Instead, there is so wide a diversity in the tenor of sapphic representations, sometimes even within a single text (Brantôme’s Recueil, for example), that we clearly cannot explain the intensified interest in the sapphic through a logic of either universal opprobrium or pre-heteronormative fluidity. If on the whole, the texts are more curious than critical, more fascinated than shocked, on the surface more matter-of-fact than morally freighted, ideological questions hover at the edges of instances that range from the identification of individuals, whether gleeful (Brantôme) or spiteful (Jonson), to allegations about specific groups (“Turkish women,” “gentlewomen of the court”), to burlesques about sex between women (Serna), to relatively neutral expositions (Torquemada and many of the anatomists), to idyllic revaluations (Donne, Fonte) and a smattering of indignant exposés (al-Fazi, Bodin).

The “Elégie” itself thus becomes the imaginary substitute for the speaker’s fulfi llment; her fi nal wish is for her voice to wander the woods, repeating its tale of unrequited love. In both instances, then, a sixteenth-century French writer presents intimacy between women as the emblem of a modernity that is disavowed (Estienne) or disallowed (Tyard) but that insists on public articulation. And across differences of tone that make Estienne’s a story of perversity and Tyard’s of possibility, both texts sound something of an alarm over women’s potential to displace men in social and sexual relations.

33 The couple married in Leiden on 8 March 1606, but in October Joosten was tried for sodomy and sent into exile in the fi rst of several such prosecutions in the Netherlands. In a broader tendency, written injunctions against sex between women had been stepping up. Charles V explicitly amended the Holy Roman Empire’s Constitution in 1532 to include in its sodomy laws “impurity” committed “by a woman,” as did Augsburg in 1537 and the Spanish Siete Partidas revised by Gregorio López 38 chapter two in 1555.

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