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Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England

Alan Stewart
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvjhq
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    Book Description:

    Humanism, in both its rhetoric and practice, attempted to transform the relationships between men that constituted the fabric of early modern society. So argues Alan Stewart in this ground-breaking investigation into the impact of humanism in sixteenth-century England. Here the author shows that by valorizing textual skills over martial prowess, humanism provided a new means of upward mobility for the lowborn but humanistically trained scholar: he could move into a highly intimate place in a nobleman's household that was previously not open to him. Because of its novelty and secrecy, the intimacy between master and scholar was vulnerable to accusations of another type of intimacy--sodomy. In comparing the ways both humanism and sodomy signaled a new economy of social relations capable of producing widespread anxiety, Stewart contributes to the foray of modern gay scholarship into Renais-sance art and literature.

    The author explores the intriguing relationship between humanism and sodomy in a series of case studies: the Medici court of the 1470s, the allegations against monks in the campaign to suppress the English monasteries, the institutionalized beating of young boys, the treacherous circle of the doomed Sir Thomas Seymour, and the closet secretaries of Elizabeth's final years. Stewart's documentation comes from a wide range of underused materials, from schoolboys' grammar books to political writings, enabling him to reconstruct frequently misunderstood events in their original contexts.

    Originally published in 1997.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6457-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. NOTE ON TRANSLATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xv-2)

    WHEN JOHN BALE wrote these lines in the late 1530s, he was merely reiterating what had become a commonplace and perhaps innocuous association between sodomy and the “spiritual clergy,” the clerics in holy orders.¹ For centuries they had provided a convenient target for accusations of sodomitical practices: the closed monastic houses, the vows of chastity, the segregation of the sexes, and the communal sleeping arrangements were all easy prey for anyone wishing to mock or to attack the church’s institutions. By the same token, sodomy was neatly contained,withinthe bounds of the spiritual clergy. By the early seventeenth century,...

  7. Chapter One FROM SINGING BOY TO SCHOLAR: THE DEATHS, LIVES, AND LETTERS OF ANGELO POLIZIANO
    (pp. 3-37)

    IT MIGHT seem perverse to open an exploration of early modern English humanism and sodomy in the heady artistic circles of quattrocento Florence. Yet this is where, historically, the tradition of homophile apology that structures gay scholarship’s relationship with Renaissance England took its inspiration and established its icons. This chapter examines the ways in which a preeminent literary figure, poet and scholar Angelo Poliziano, was appropriated to this proto-gay tradition, and argues that it is in Poliziano’s specific place within the complex social structures of quattrocento Florence, as much as in his homoerotic verse, that we can find his vulnerability...

  8. Chapter Two REMAPPING THE BOUNDS OF SODOMY: HUMANISM AND THE ENGLISH REFORMATION
    (pp. 38-83)

    THE SOCIALTOPOIof English humanism—the invocation of the classical authority of Maecenas as patron, the forging and maintaining of relationships through an assumed friendship witnessed by a similarity of studies—were not reserved solely to men who subscribed to recognizably humanist notions of scholarship and personal ethics. Among the men who took on thesetopoi, while remaining vocally opposed to a Ciceronianism he considered godless, was the scholar, playwright and polemicist John Bale, a convert whose writings are being recognized as the foundations of a Protestant English historiography. As Bale had emerged from the cloistered life of the...

  9. Chapter Three “TRAITORS TO BOYES BUTTOCKES”: THE EROTICS OF HUMANIST EDUCATION
    (pp. 84-121)

    NO MATTER how grand the pretensions of the humanist movement may have been, the harsh reality of the life of the man who tried to use his humanist training for financial gain was that he was often forced into badly paid (or even unpaid) employment as some kind of teacher. The suppression of the monasteries led to ade factosuppression of the learning they supplied; at the same time, the state intervened to regulate English education through the 1536 Injunctions. From these years on, the most prominent vernacular voices in education (joining the Continental theorists Erasmus and Vives) were...

  10. Chapter Four “THE PROOFE OF FRENDS”: READING AMICITIA IN 1548
    (pp. 122-160)

    ONE OF THE most famous of erotic relationships between men, known to every sixteenth-century grammar-school boy, was that of Corydon and Alexis in Virgil’s second eclogue. The shepherd Corydon laments his unrequited love for the sophisticated and beautiful Alexis, the master’s favorite. In the influential fourth-century commentary by Servius Maurus Honoratus—from which the standard Renaissance schoolroom editions of theEcloguesdrew heavily—the desire of Corydon for Alexis was by no means derided. The Servian commentary places the poem in two historicized, biographical contexts, both concerned with patronage: in one of these, Corydon represents Virgil and Alexis a beautiful...

  11. Chapter Five EPISTEMOLOGIES OF THE EARLY MODERN CLOSET
    (pp. 161-188)

    THERE ARE stage-sins, and there are closet-sins,” wrote Bishop Joseph Hall in 1615,¹ and—while we might be a little edgy about Hall’s notion of “sin”—that formulation is still readily familiar to us today. “Stage sins” are public sins, enacted on the stage of the world, while “closet sins” are secret sins, hidden in a private personal space. This symbolic use of “closet” has over the last quarter of a century become inextricably linked with its appropriation by the lesbian and gay communities. Through them, the image of the closet has been mobilized to invoke and sustain a series...

  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 189-212)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 213-224)