restricted access Figuring Sex between Men from Shakespeare to Rochester by Paul Hammond (review)
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189 Milton. For Ms. Frank, Dryden defined the past as an ‘‘age’’ unlike the present that is both the originating point of a national literature and the source of an inheritance in need of improvement by more sophisticated writers, such as himself . His construction of Shakespeare as a ‘‘Universal Genius’’whose writings are available to all regardless ofstatusorgender , made that tradition available to later writers. Ms. Frank aims to reassert the centrality of theater to the emergence of critical discourse;toarguefortheimportance of Dryden as a foundational figure in that process; to sketch out a line of critical inheritance running from Dryden through several women writers of the next generation ; and to trace the shift from the Court to the public sphere as the place where criticism takes place. But she builds these broad arguments and sweeping claims on a narrow set of texts and examples. Some of her readings feel strained, for example, the conflict between Octavia and Cleopatra in Dryden’s All for Love being an allegory of male poetic competition. Perhaps more important , the argument of the book turns on terms that seem underarticulated. Ms. Frank never defines precisely what she means by ‘‘criticism,’’for example,orexactly inwhatsenseitmightbesaidtohave emerged in the late seventeenth century; don’t Aristotle and Sidney count? A broader consideration of the status of critical writing in the late seventeenth century, one that includes many other writers besides Dryden, seems called for if Ms. Frank’s claim about the invention of the ‘‘critical stage’’is to be convincing. ‘‘Theater’’ likewise seems to shuttle unpredictably between literal and figurative senses, as she refers to the actual theater within which all of her figures worked, but also invokes the senses of the performative and the theatrical-made family to postmoderncriticismbyEveSedgwick and Judith Butler. Ms. Frank also relies heavily on the figure of ‘‘imbrication’’to describe the complex relationship between gender, theater, and criticism in each of these writers; used so repeatedly, such a term muddies causal relationships that deserve to be articulated with more precision. Although Gender, Theatre, and the Origins of Criticism usefully directs our attention to the late seventeenth-century theater and to a set of critical strategies that emerged from it, Ms. Frank’s argumentisgenerallynothelpedbyherthorny prose, rife with abstract nouns, passive voice, and the occasional dangling modifier , which makes this book harder going than it needs to be and, therefore, less likely to reach and hold a broad readership . John O’Brien University of Virginia PAUL HAMMOND. Figuring Sex between Men from Shakespeare to Rochester. Oxford : Clarendon, 2002. Pp. xi ⫹ 281. $19.95 (paper). Figuring Sex identifies a radical change in the cultural figuring of sex and erotic desire between men from the beginning to the end of the seventeenthcentury . This useful and learned study charts a trajectory from the homoeroticism and homosexual displays of Jacobean courtly society and its writtenlyricsofmale-male passion to the greater textual ‘‘closeting’’ of such expression at the close of the century , a time that nonetheless included a more recognizably modern ‘‘gay’’behavioral culture in such phenomena as the London molly houses. Mr. Hammond ex- 190 plores how, in the seventeenth-century texts he chooses, ‘‘literature creates an imagined world in which homosexual relations can be figured, and how readers responded to those creations by adapting, rewriting, and censoring those texts.’’ Mr. Hammond proposes that some authors use the rhetorical move of paradiastole to create ongoing redefinitions within poems and plays that construct ‘‘fictional spaces in which sex between men may be staged to the reader’s imagination .’’ ‘‘Writers wishing to voice love between men,’’ he says, ‘‘often develop strategies (such as allusion to the Greeks) which allow desire to be identified, while also inviting readers to construe it as something other than sexual—as masculine friendship, as religious devotion.’’ Such deliberate ambiguities in textsmake unavoidable, if selective and intermittent, a stagingofmale-malepassionandsexual desire. Subsequent chapters present case studies that examine such homoerotic moments in Shakespeare;inpamphletdepictions of public figures from Edward II and his favorite, Gaveston, through William III; in Restoration-era attacks on Marvell read in connection with homoerotic ambiguities in his poetry; and in Rochester’s poetry with attention to reception of his representations of sex...