Closet Devotions

Overview

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 ...
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Closet Devotions

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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

Michael Schoenfeldt

"[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."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822321804
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 8/26/1998
  • Series: Series Q
  • Pages: 193
  • Lexile: 1630L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Richard Rambuss is Associate Professor of English at Emory University. He is the author of Spenser’s Secret Career.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Note on Texts
Introduction: Sacred Eroticisms 1
1 Christ's Ganymede 11
2 Devotion and Desire 73
3 The Prayer Closet 103
Notes 137
Works Cited 175
Index 187
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