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.
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"Employing a critically powerful methodology, Alan Stewart examines a field of authors and texts that, within the history of sexuality, is largely terra incognita. In Close Readers, he argues forcefully for a notion of the closet as a politicized 'transactive space,' where negotiations take place that are every bit as political as those that occur in public."--Bruce R. Smith, Georgetown University
"An intelligent discussion that uncovers some surprising ways in which humanism and sodomy--two seemingly distinct social discourses--existed in supplemental exchange and tension. Writing in a vivid style, Alan Stewart adds a bulk of insights to the growing debates about the history of sexuality. His book will be invaluable to literary scholars, historians, gay and lesbian theorists, and readers generally interested in the social and textual deployment of eroticism in the early modern period."--Gregory W. Bredbeck, University of California, Riverside
Table of Contents:
Note on Translations
Ch. 1 From Singing Boy to Scholar: The Deaths, Lives, and Letters of Angelo Poliziano 3
Ch. 2 Remapping the Bounds of Sodomy: Humanism and the English Reformation 38
Ch. 3 "Traitors to Boyes Buttockes": The Erotics of Humanist Education 84
Ch. 4 "The Proofe of Frends": Reading Amicitia in 1548 122
Ch. 5 Epistemologies of the Early Modern Closet 161