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The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance

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Overview

When the French invaded Italy in 1494, they were shocked by the frank sexuality expressed in Italian cities. By 1600, the French were widely considered to be the most highly sexualized nation in Christendom. What caused this transformation? This book examines how, as Renaissance textual practices and new forms of knowledge rippled outward from Italy, the sexual landscape and French notions of masculinity, sexual agency, and procreation were fundamentally changed. Exploring the use of astrology, the infusion of Neoplatonism, the critique of Petrarchan love poetry, and the monarchy's sexual reputation, the book reveals that the French encountered conflicting ideas from abroad and from antiquity about the meanings and implications of sexual behavior. Intensely interested in cultural self-definition, humanists, poets, and political figures all contributed to the rapid alteration of sexual ideas to suit French cultural needs. The result was the vibrant sexual reputation that marks French culture to this day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beautifully written, lively, and original, Katherine Crawford's study of French Renaissance sexual culture makes a compelling case for reading sexuality through poetry, poetic theory, astrology, and philosophy in unusual ways. Providing an anatomy of some of the lesser-examined elements that contribute to the development of sexual ideology in a given culture, The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance makes an important contribution, not only to the study of sexuality in Renaissance France, but to sexuality studies more generally." -Carla Freccero, Professor of Literature, Feminist Studies, and the History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz

"The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance fills an important gap in the history of sexuality. Before Crawford’s book, the contribution of the sixteenth-century thinkers to the creation of modern, regulatory sexuality was unclear. Crawford shows how French writers, especially poets, refigured Italian neo-Platonism and Petrarch’s verse to create a distinctly French, thoroughly heterosexual normativity. French historians, literary specialists, students of gay history and Renaissance scholars of all sorts should read The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance." -Kathryn Norberg, Associate Professor of History and Women’s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.

"Crawford’s clear and elegant writing makes all of this material accessible to a broader audience; this study would be a suitable anchor text for university courses on early modern sexuality."
-KATHLEEN LONG,Cornell University

"This ambitious and convincing volume also has the merit of providing material for scholars and students in a variety of disciplines and, last but not least, is to be particularly commended for its strategic use of visual sources." Sara F Matthews-Grieco, European History Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521749503
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2010
  • Series: Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHERINE CRAWFORD is Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Perilous Performances: Gender and Regency in Early Modern France (2004) and European Sexualities, 1400–1800 (2007).

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Table of Contents

Introduction Sexual culture, France, Renaissance? 1

1 The renaissance of sex : Orpheus, mythography, and making sexual meaning 23

2 Heavens below : astrology, generation, and sexual (un)certainty 67

3 Neoplatonism and the making of heterosexuality 109

4 Cupid makes you stupid : "bad" poetry in the French Renaissance 152

5 Politics, promiscuity, and potency : managing the king's sexual reputation 195

Conclusion Dirty thoughts 241

Bibliography 249

Index 287

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