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Before Intimacy: Asocial Sexuality in Early Modern England

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Before Intimacy
    Book Description:

    Daniel Juan Gil examines sixteenth-century English literary concepts of sexuality that frame erotic ties as neither bound by social customs nor transgressive of them, but rather as “loopholes” in people's associations. Engaging Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, Spenser's The Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare's sonnets, among others Gil demonstrates how sexuality was conceived as a relationship system not institutionalized in a domestic realm._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9758-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    One of the key assumptions of Renaissance studies in recent years has been that sexuality is inextricably intertwined with other registers of early modern social life. Drawing on groundbreaking work by Alan Bray, Jonathan Goldberg, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Bruce R. Smith, and Valerie Traub, critics have shown that early modern sexuality could inhabit a whole range of conventionally social relationships without necessarily bringing attention to itself as sexuality, and Sedgwick’s concept of “homosocial desire” is often taken as a shorthand for this situation. The homosocial paradigm has, in fact, had the immensely beneficial effect of highlighting how central sexuality is...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Social Structure of Passion
    (pp. 1-26)

    One of the central claims of this book is that the sexual intersubjectivity that early modern literary texts describe both anticipates and departs from some of the key assumptions of the modern sexual ideal of intimacy. I begin to decribe this early modern alternative to intimacy, and its historically specific use of emotions, by reviewing Niklas Luhmann’s sociological account of the emergence and function of intimacy as a specificstructure of relationship,tied to the whole system of social relationships, that defines modernity.¹

    One of the hallmarks of modernity, for Luhmann, is a social world organized by impersonal systems such...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Intimacy and the Eroticism of Social Distance: Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella and Spenser’s Amoretti
    (pp. 27-48)

    I have suggested that from Wyatt’s first translations of Petrarchan sonnets into English the genre is a privileged bearer of the massive early modern contradiction between, on the one hand, a modern vision of a shared and interconnected social universe that projects the ideal of a shared humanity and, on the other hand, a premodern vision of the social world in which social distinction, personal identity, and group membership are defined a priori, as it were, by blood alone, and in which hereditary status is the basic engine of social relationships. I have also suggested that part of the power...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Civility and the Emotional Topography of The Faerie Queene
    (pp. 49-76)

    I have been arguing that the discourse of civility bears two incompatible social imaginaries: on the one hand a vision of potentially universal humanity, and on the other hand a vision of heredity as the essential engine of personal identity and social relationships. I have also described how early modern poets can fuse this contradiction to define sexualized limit experiences in which bodies connect with other bodies in the absence of functionally social ties between socially legible persons. Describing this asocial sexuality is an important part of many early modern literary texts; Edmund Spenser’sThe Faerie Queene,however, is unique...

  8. CHAPTER 4 At the Limits of the Social World: Fear and Pride in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida
    (pp. 77-102)

    I have been describing a discourse of sexuality that is forged out of an early modern contradiction between incompatible ways of defining class or status and incompatible ways of envisioning the social world as a whole. This underlying social contradiction is generated by the slow, uneven, and often traumatic emergence of a modern social formation in early modern England, and it is theorized by the important early modern discourse of civility. I have argued that the discourse of civility projects the ideal of a universal humanity that must be respected by all and lays the foundation for a kind of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Poetic Autonomy and the History of Sexuality in Shakespeare’s Sonnets
    (pp. 103-136)

    I have described the emergence, at the very cusp of modernity, of a form of sexuality that arises out of the contradictions of sixteenth-century society and constitutes a special class of interpersonal bonding that, like the modern notion of intimacy, stands apart from the rest of social life even if, unlike modern intimacy, it is not rooted in a private, domestic sphere. A central character in this story has been the poetic tendency called Petrarchanism. From its first appearance in English, in the work of Wyatt and Surrey, Petrarchan poetry is the bearer of two contradictory visions of society: one...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 137-138)

    The kind of sexual experience that Wyatt’s poetry injects into sixteenthcentury English literary history is, in some sense, a dead end. The literary discourse that celebrates theatrical emotions for their power to liberate the person and interpersonal interactions from the social world and its normative social grammars is the fruit of a transitional period, a hiatus, between a firmly consolidated feudal world and an equally well-consolidated modernity. The rise of the novel marks the emergence of a modern social formation as well as the ideal of romantic, intimate sexuality that affirms rich individual personalities built on fully psychological emotions. A...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 139-180)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 181-188)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-189)