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Lesbian Historic Motif Project: #110a Borris 2004 - Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance (Chapter 1)

Full citation: 

Borris, Kenneth (ed). 2004. Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470-1650. Routledge, New York. ISBN 978-1-138-87953-9

Publication summary: 


As indicated by the sub-title, this is a collection of edited texts relevant to same-sex desire in England in the two centuries centered around the 16th. These are not necessarily texts of 16th century England, but texts available to people in that time and place. In covering these chapters, I will tend to give a topical summary of the mentioned works, but may sometimes quote the sources more extensively as my whim takes me. I will also only cover the texts with female relevance. Therefore my coverage of some chapters may much briefer than others.

Chapter 1: Theology

Having typed up all the chapters for this source, I theoretically have entries to carry me through the end of the year (though some of the chapters are short and I may double-up). I like having new material each week, even if it's just baby steps sometimes. One step at a time takes you all sorts of places.

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In general, theological texts make no explicit reference to female homoerotic activities, though coverage may be inferred (with varying degrees of confidence) by the inclusion of women in discussions of sodomy or under vague general references to inappropriate sexual behavior. Some authors, when presenting theological discussions of sexuality, include less ambiguous examples, as in the following.

Apology for Herodotus (1566) - Among a series of anecdotes under the general topic of sodomy and bestiality, the following account is given. Now albeit the former example [of a woman having sexual relations with a dog] be very strange, yet we have here another far more strange (thought not altogether so wicked) committed about thirty years ago by a maid born at Fountaines (between Blois and Rommarantin), who having disguised herself like a man served as an hostler at an Inn in the suburbs of Foy for the space of seven years, and afterwards married a maid of the town, with whom she companied for the space of two years or thereabout, attempting much, but effecting nothing. After which time her cousinage and knavery in counterfeiting the office of a husband being discovered, she was apprehended, and having confessed the fact, was burned. By which examples we see that our Age may well boast that (notwithstanding the vices of former times) it hath some proper and peculiar to itself. For this fact of hers hath nothing common with that which was practiced by those famous strumpets who in old times were called Tribades.

Note that this is one of the types of commentaries that Lanser (2014) points to in noting the contradictory perception of lesbianism as both connected to, and entirely distinct from, ancient practices mentioned in classical sources.

Time period: 

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