- Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe ed. by Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, Nancy J. Vickers (review)
- L'Esprit Créateur
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 28, Number 2, Summer 1988
- pp. 99-100
- View Citation
- Additional Information
B o o k R e v ie w s Classical and Modern epistemologies in order to justify post-structural views of 16thcentury texts. Patricia Parker investigates limits in comparisons between Derridean terminology and Renaissance notions of dilation by signalling “ the distance between a dila tion and delay . . . caught within the horizon of a telos . . . and [a] kind of unlimited ‘difference.’ ” Such distinctions begin to answer charges of ahistoricism, disguised essentialism or arbitrariness directed against post-structuralist work. Literary Theory/ Renaissance Texts, investigating how textual energy is inhibited and exploited by historically contingent literary, cultural, political or social mechanisms, offers methods of inquiry valid not only for Renaissance literature, but for critical thinking itself. N a n c y W e i g e l R o d m a n University o f Minnesota Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, & Nancy J. Vickers, eds. R e w r i t i n g t h e R e n a i s s a n c e : T h e D i s c o u r s e s o f S e x u a l D i f f e r e n c e in E a r l y M o d e r n E u r o p e . Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, Women in Culture and Society, 1986. Pp. 426. A line drawing of Sir Thomas More and family once sent by Hans Holbein to Erasmus emblematizes the volume. The drawing features M ore’s adopted daughter, Margaret Gibbs. Her figure was subsequently dropped from painted versions of the drawing. Similar ly, the articles in this volume deal with the absence/presence of woman and image in the Renaissance. Her gradual disappearance in a progressively patriarchal society and her reappearance in an urban setting attest to her ambiguous status in arts and society. The book is divided into three parts: Politics of Patriarchy: Theory and Practice; Rhetorics of Marginality: Consequences; The Works of Women: Some Exceptions. While readings vary from textual analyses to conceptual overview, the articles include literary, painterly, historical and sociological orientations. Jonathan Goldberg studies relationships between text and image through noble family portraits from the Elizabethean age in terms of their constitution of patriarchy. Elizabeth Cropper examines how males—Titian, Leonardo—celebrate female beauty in the same genre. Sheila ffoliott recreates a wonderfully funny mise-en-scene of Catherine de Medicis as Artemis. Most studies of English and French are inspired by questions of mimesis and power derived from the work of Michel Foucault and Louis Marin. On the literary side, there is the English scene where, next to John Guillory’s excellent reading of Milton, several readings of Shakespeare, imposing an ideological frame on the drama, tend perhaps to limit the power of language and the shadings of human relations. On the French side, a short article by Carla Freccero on Rabelais and Montaigne focuses on the hermaphrodite. She shows how, in concept, narcissism and maleness are reaffirmed over the body of an absent woman. Of particular interest are two texts on Louise Labé, both for their careful execution and their differences in approach. François Rigolot studies the indecision of gender in Labé’s writings. He points out how Labé has frequent recourse to syllepsis but especially to the ambiguous gender of amour in her poems and concludes that her way of writing as a woman in a male dominated poetic tradition operates through grammatical ambivalence. A nice complement to his reading is Ann Rosalind Jones’ cultural and historical comparison of Labé and the Venetian poet Veronica Franco. Jones gives an account of how two early feminists, a wealthy bourgeois and a courtesan, had to assert themselves as women, as writers and lovers against male pressures. In this context, Labé and Franco read like early avatars of George Sand. Vol. x x v i i i , No. 2 99 B o o k R e v ie w s Sometimes overlapping, sometimes completing or even contradicting each other, the essays show not only the richness of a period but also, inevitably, the variety of its points of view that owe to circumstances, individual talents...