Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: Published: January 2006

Author: Freccero, Carla

Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

In Queer/Early/Modern, Carla Freccero, a leading scholar of early modern European studies, argues for a reading practice that accounts for the queerness of temporality, for the way past, present, and future time appear out of sequence and in dialogue in our thinking about history and texts. Freccero takes issue with New Historicist accounts of sexual identity that claim to respect historical proprieties and to derive identity categories from the past. She urges us to see how the indeterminacies of subjectivity found in literary texts challenge identitarian constructions and she encourages us to read differently the relation between history and literature. Contending that the term “queer,” in its indeterminacy, points the way toward alternative ethical reading practices that do justice to the aftereffects of the past as they live on in the present, Freccero proposes a model of “fantasmatic historiography” that brings together history and fantasy, past and present, event and affect.

Combining feminist theory, queer theory, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and literary criticism, Freccero takes up a series of theoretical and historical issues related to debates in queer theory, feminist theory, the history of sexuality, and early modern studies. She juxtaposes readings of early and late modern texts, discussing the lyric poetry of Petrarch, Louise Labé, and Melissa Ethridge; David Halperin’s take on Michel Foucault via Apuleius’s The Golden Ass and Boccaccio’s Decameron; and France’s domestic partner legislation in connection with Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron. Turning to French cleric Jean de Léry’s account, published in 1578, of having witnessed cannibalism and religious rituals in Brazil some twenty years earlier and to the twentieth-century Brandon Teena case, Freccero draws on Jacques Derrida’s concept of spectrality to propose both an ethics and a mode of interpretation that acknowledges and is inspired by the haunting of the present by the past.


Queer/Early/Modern is an important and exciting contribution to the literature on representations of sexuality and subjectivity in early modern literature and culture. The book will be of interest to anyone who has been engaged in the project of ‘queering’ the Renaissance and beyond not simply as a way of finding precursors for modern lifestyles and identities but as a political gesture meant to resist essentialist critiques that attempt to simplify the complexity of (queer) identities by anchoring them in rigid notions of history. Freccero is not afraid to make bold claims, and she has the historical knowledge and theoretical prowess to support them convincingly.” — David LaGuardia, Journal of the History of Sexuality

“[Freccero’s] approach to textuality suggests that as moderns we think about how the early modern relates to us and how we relate back to it. Queer/Early/Modern should appeal, then, to scholars interested in considering how past and present ‘haunt’ each other in the area of sexuality, and in how we might go about studying that haunting. While the book treats a variety of texts and contexts, the relative focus on French texts makes the book a rare contribution to early modern studies of sexuality, which tend to be dominated by British studies.” — Todd W. Reeser, Sixteenth Century Journal

“[T]his is a theoretical work with clarifies, advances, and enriches the possibilities of early modern research.”
— Michael Saenger, Comitatus

“Carla Freccero's Queer/ Early/ Modern is an intensely engaged and elegantly written meta-commentary on the practice of reading the past, punctuated by passionate close readings of early modern French and Italian literary texts.”
— Graham Hammill, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“For scholars working on gender in early modern texts, this book is both a useful synthesis of some of the most significant texts in postmodern-gender-queer theory and an original use of these texts to elaborate subtle, complex, and flexible readings of early modern texts. . . . The questions Freccero raises and the arguments she offers open the door to more careful and inclusive readings of long-neglected texts that haunt our own culture, and to a radical revision of our attitudes towards the past.” — Kathleen Long, Renaissance Quarterly

“Freccero is a meticulous reader of texts canonical and otherwise; her work, too, is richly theoretically informed; and she also is interested in the complications that attend arguments about desire and deviance in periods before the hardening of the modern taxonomy of sexualities.” — Peter Coviello, GLQ

“If the academy were a spa, then Queer/Early/Modern would be its hot-rock massage. At once painful and invigorating, this brilliant book destroys heteronormative historiography with a force belied only by its exquisitely beautiful prose.” — Madhavi Menon, GLQ

“This is a wonderful book, poetic and allusive, that does much more than its title might imply. . . . Useful, a pleasure to read, and very refreshing!” — Bill Burgwinkle, Medium Aevum

“We are lucky to have [Queer/Early/Modern] . . . to help us think through the complex intersections between queer theory and history.” — Pamela Hammons, CLIO

“Carla Freccero’s beautifully written book offers a strong, persuasive, and new way of reading queer early modern texts. Refusing the historicist view that would draw fierce lines between premodern and modern, Freccero asks her reader to consider premodern texts as intervening in the logic of their times and persisting within modernity in spectral form. Her intense engagement with queer early modern scholarship is enriched and disoriented by her insistence that contemporary practices of ‘queering’ are haunted by their unfinished and unfinishable past. Her singular and deft way of moving between contemporary culture and politics and the animated remnants of premodern texts offers a brilliant model for contemporary scholarship and a truly innovative turn in queer studies.” — Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor at the University of California, Berkeley

“Had he lived in the sixteenth century, André Breton would have proclaimed: ‘Art will be queer or it will not be.’ Such is the enduring truth we obtain from Carla Freccero’s powerful, inventive, indeed genial readings of the early modern canon. A brilliant work showing us what we can do with what we call the past.” — Tom Conley, author of The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carla Freccero is Chair of the Department of Literature and Professor of Literature, History of Consciousness, and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Popular Culture: An Introduction and Father Figures: Genealogy and Narrative Structure in Rabelais and a coeditor of Premodern Sexualities.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments iv

1. Prolepses: Queer/Early/Modern 1

Part One. Past, Present

2. Always Already Queer (French) Theory 13

3. Undoing the Histories of Homosexuality 31

4. Queer Nation: Early/Modern France 51

Part Two. Futures

5. Queer Spectrality 69

Notes 105

Bibliography 149

Index 173

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3690-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3678-5
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