Closet Devotions

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 14 illustrations Published: August 1998

Author: Richard Rambuss

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Religion and sex, body and soul, sacred and profane: In Closet Devotions, Richard Rambuss traces the relays between these cultural formations by examining the issue of “sacred eroticism,” the literary or artistic expression of devotional feelings in erotic terms that has repeatedly occurred over the centuries. Rather than dismissing such expression as mere convention, Rambuss takes it seriously as a form of erotic discourse, one that gives voice to desires that, outside the sphere of sacred rapture, would otherwise be deemed taboo.
Through startling rereadings of works ranging from the devotional verse of the metaphysical poets (Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, and Traherne) to photographer Andres Serrano’s controversial “Piss Christ,” from Renaissance religious iconography to contemporary gay porn, Rambuss uncovers the highly charged erotic imagery that suffuses religious devotional art and literature. And he explores one of Christian culture’s most guarded (and literal) closets—the prayer closet itself, a privileged space where the vectors of same-sex desire can travel privately between the worshiper and his or her God.
Elegantly written and theoretically astute, Closet Devotions illuminates the ways in which sacred Christian devotion is homoeroticized, a phenomenon that until now has gone unexplored in current scholarship on religion, the body, and its passions. This book will attract readers across a wide array of disciplines, including gay and lesbian studies, literary theory and criticism, Renaissance studies, and religion.


Closet Devotions is a brilliant exposition of the carnal subtext of Renaissance spirituality and a major contribution to our understanding of religious verse.” — Richard C. McCoy, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

Closet Devotions is both impressive and potentially disquieting scholarship. . . . It is to be hoped that interested Hispanists will take advantage of Rambuss’s insights.” — Christopher B. Weimer , Calíope

“A timely contribution to literary and cultural history. . . . this slight, stimulating book is worth the effort . . . for its powerful exploration of the architectural and psychological contours of the prayer closet.” — Andrew McRae , Parergon

"[A] provocative and well-written book . . . . [I]mpressive reading . . . . [A] bold book . . . . [A] major critical intervention in seventeenth-century studies. It will remain a central part of the conversation for some time to come."

— Michael Schoenfeldt , Modern Philology

"Rambuss does an amazing analytical and interpretive piece of work on [the Metaphysical Poets]." — Tony Coxon, Sexualities

"Rambuss's readings demonstrate the breadth of the Christian tradition against its own normalizing and constraining tendencies." — Amy Hollywood , Signs

Closet Devotions is a bold and original work. Rambuss asks us to take seriously the relation between sexual and religious affect in the Renaissance devotional lyric, without reducing one to the other. In a series of virtuoso readings, he brings together two previously distant fields of scholarly inquiry, enriching our sense of the affective intensity of religious lyric at the same time that he demonstrates the astonishing scope of human sexuality.” — John David Guillory, Harvard University

“[Closet Devotions] is vividly and clearly written, it is original in its insistence on seeing the ‘sacred eroticism’ of the lyric it studies as eroticism, and it is interestingly provocative in its juxtapositions of that lyric to present-day queer representations.” — Henry Abelove, Wesleyan University


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Price: $24.95

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