This exploration of sexuality and gender in Renaissance art and literature starts from an assumption that would have seemed unthinkable a generation ago: that the "natural" phenomena of sex, gender, and subjectivity are constructed rather than essentially biological or fixed. The essays in this collection rise to the challenge of producing a new post-Foucaultian history of gender and sexuality. All of them have been influenced by feminism, and several deal with women not just as objects of representation, but as subjects and authors in their own right. Among the historical issues examined are the production and suppression of women's voices, the relation between illicit sexuality and social order, the ambiguity of beauty, lesbian erotics, birth-imagery and the birthing ritual, the class status of women, the "feminity" of masculine dress, and the sexual politics of courtesy. The volume provides a new perspective on the literature, art, and society of Renaissance Italy, France, and England.
"The great strength of this volume is that it displays the wide variety of approaches being applied to cultural products of the Renaissance. In particular, it demonstrates how the juxtaposition and reconsideration of different types of evidence (visual, literary, and 'empirical') can significantly enrich our understanding of the Renaissance." Linda L. Gaus, Sixteenth Century Journal