Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome: Sexuality, Identity, and Community in Early Modern Europe

Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome: Sexuality, Identity, and Community in Early Modern Europe

by Gary Ferguson


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Same-sex marriage is a hotly debated topic in the United States, and the world, today. From the tenor of most discussions, however, it would be easy to conclude that the idea of marriage between two people of the same sex is a uniquely contemporary phenomenon. Not so, argues Gary Ferguson in this remarkable book about a same-sex wedding ceremony in sixteenth-century Rome. The case in question involved a group of mostly Spanish and Portuguese men, arrested and executed in Rome in 1578, said to have performed same-sex wedding ceremonies in one of the city’s major churches. We know about the incident from a number of sources, including the travel journal of the French essayist Michel de Montaigne.

Several substantial fragments of the transcript of the men’s trial have also survived, along with copies of their wills. Making use of all these documents, Ferguson brings the story to life in striking detail. He reveals not only the names of the men but also where they lived, how they were employed, and who their friends were. In particular, he unearths a surprising amount of detail about the men’s sex lives, and how others responded to this information, which allows him to explore attitudes toward marriage, sex, and gender at the time. Emphasizing the instability of marriage in premodern Europe, Ferguson argues that same-sex unions should be considered part of the institution’s complex and contested history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501702372
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 07/09/2016
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 656,348
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Gary Ferguson is the Douglas Huntly Gordon Distinguished Professor of French at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Queer (Re)Readings in the French Renaissance: Homosexuality, Gender, Culture and Mirroring Belief: Marguerite de Navarre’s Devotional Poetry and the coeditor of several books, including A Companion to Marguerite de Navarre.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Engagement
1. A French Writer Visits: Montaigne's Travel Journal and a Thrice-Told Tale
2. "Our Marriages"? Male to Male / Like Husband and Wife
3. Marriage— Rites, Analogues, Meanings
4. Other Witnesses, Other Stories
5. Final Hours: Wills and Execution
6. Voices on Trial: Beginning with Battista the Boatman
7. Saint John at the Latin Gate: Marco Pinto
8. Marriage as Alibi, as Euphemism, as Recruitment
9. Marriage and Community
10. Looking Forward / Looking Back: The History of Sexuality
11. Ghost Stories: Queer History

What People are Saying About This

Guido Ruggiero

"A microhistory with a bite, this fascinating and richly detailed study of a literally queer 'marriage' in early modern Rome involving a group of men who ran afoul of the papacy and local authorities challenges virtually all the current givens about premodern male/male sex and especially what has become a Foucauldian orthodoxy. Melding a close reading of archival documents and a wide-ranging reading of literary accounts, it offers a stimulating rethinking of marriage, sexual identity, sexual subcultures, and an ideal of mutual pleasure in sex—and not just in the premodern period, for this book engages intelligently and provocatively with modern debates on these subjects as well."

Melissa E. Sanchez

"Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome is a captivating and important book. Following the myriad implications and consequences of a same-sex marriage ceremony performed in late-sixteenth-century Rome, Gary Ferguson brings together religious, political, and economic history to bear on our understanding of the organization of past erotic relations. Ferguson's nuanced history of marriage, gender, and the history of sexuality will be essential reading for scholars from a range of fields."

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