Goldberg, Jonathan. 2014. “English Renaissance Literature in the History of Sexuality” in The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature ed. E.L. McCallum & Mikko Tuhkanen. Cambridge University Press, New York. ISBN 978-1-107-03521-8
A collection of articles meant as a critical reference work on literature across time and space that might be considered “gay and lesbian literature.” Only articles with lesbian-relevant content will be blogged in detail.
Chapter 9 - English Renaissance Literature in the History of Sexuality
* * *
This article starts out with the question, “what is literary history?” It points out that, however approached, literary history, has traditionally, avoided considerations of gender and sexuality, while focusing either on literary personalities and influences, or literary context. But this article isn’t so much concerned with literary history itself, but with the history of literary history, opening with a consideration of how Sir Philip Sydney’s Defence of Poetry and George Puttenham’s Arte of English Poesie approach the subject, but how questions of gender and sexuality are implicitly embedded in those works.
[Note: I can’t help but notice that, in this collection generally, if the article is not overtly framed in a specific cultural context, it defaults to English history.]
Sydney muses on a concern that poetry should be a trumpet call — inspiring masculinity — and that he finds love poetry unmoving and feminizing, a pervasive theme at the time that a man’s desire for a woman feminized him.
Puttenham, on the other hand, writes — not a defense of the worth of poetry — but a manual for how to produce it, and how to use the role of poet to succeed at social politics. He, too, touches on the claim that poetry — especially the use of poetry to please and flatter a female monarch — risks emasculation.
Goldberg help these discourses and the historical study of the relations between authors, exclude women from consideration, except is an abstract image that the men are negotiating around.
[Note: Never as actual poets themselves. In fact, Goldberg manages the feat of discussing the exclusion of women from literary history without actually managing to include them.]
The article continues from this point to discuss male poets, and the homoerotic themes in their work and lives.