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Sappho in Early Modern England

Female Same-Sex Literary Erotics, 1550-1714

In Sappho in Early Modern England, Harriette Andreadis examines public and private expressions of female same-sex sexuality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Before the language of modern sexual identities developed, a variety of discourses in both literary and extraliterary texts began to form a lexicon of female intimacy. Looking at accounts of non-normative female sexualities in travel narratives, anatomies, and even marital advice books, Andreadis outlines the vernacular through which a female same-sex erotics first entered verbal consciousness. She finds that "respectable" women of the middle classes and aristocracy who did not wish to identify themselves as sexually transgressive developed new vocabularies to describe their desires; women that we might call bisexual or lesbian, referred to in their day as tribades, fricatrices, or "rubsters," emerged in erotic discourses that allowed them to acknowledge their sexuality and still evade disapproval.

240 pages | 4 halftones, 3 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Culture Studies

Gender and Sexuality

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter I
An Erotics of Unnaming
Recovering the Past: Problems of Identity
On Naming Female Same-Sex Behaviors
Physical Intimacy and the Erotics of Unnaming
The Demise of Tacit Knowledge
The Textual Dissemination of Sexual Knowledge
Splitting Discourses
Reading the Past: A Language of Erotic Ellipsis
Chapter II
Representing Sappho: Early Modern Public Discourse
Suppressing Sappho’s Tribadism: The Myth of Sappho and Phaon
Sappho as Originary Icon of Female Poetic Excellence
Sappho as Exemplar of Female Same-Sex Desire
Other Transgressing Classical Women
Vernacular Discourses
Chapter III
An Emerging Sapphic Discourse: The Legacy of Katherine Philips
Literatures and Traditions of Friendship
A Life of Friendship
A Confluence of Traditions: Ideologies of Friendship, Sappho, and Orinda’s Reputation
Writers Transgressing: Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn
Writers Transgressing: Delarivier Manley
Erotic Discourse(s), Libidinous Energies
Chapter IV
Doubling Discourses in an Erotics of Female Friendship
"Respectable" Intimacies and Erotic Ellipsis
Ephelia and Negotiations of Homage
Women Writers and Female Community at Court
Women Writers at the Court of Mary of Modena: Anne Killigrew
Women Writers at the Court of Mary of Modena: Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchelsea
Women Writers and the Court of Mary of Modena: Jane Barker
Toward Sapphic Intimacies in the Eighteenth Century
Chapter V
Configurations of Desire: The Turn of the Century at Court
Calisto and Diana’s Nymphs: Visual Representations
Calisto and Diana’s Nymphs: Textual Representations
John Crowne’s Calisto: Sappho at Court
The Case of Queen Anne’s Court


Sixteenth Century Studies Conference: Roland H. Bainton Book Prize

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