Does current scholarship shun or embrace what seems aleatory or “beside the point” in early modern prose, especially those elements that could be said to convey affect, tone, emotion, desire? What does it do with lyric’s indeterminate rhetoricity? Through the figure of touch and the contingencies of the tangent, this paper explores textual instances in early modern Continental literature where reading poses problems of interpretation that cannot be resolved into determinate meaning and that raise the question of how to “read” what moderns call “desire,” especially queer desire, in early modern poetry and prose. François Rabelais’s inscription of woman as writing, the tortuous fashioning of the lyric “I” as it travels between Petrarch and Louise Labé, and the sparing narrative of Marguerite de Navarre bear fragmentary traces of what moderns might call a queer feminist archive, and yet none yield positive (or empirical) “knowledge” about gendered and sexual practices and subjectivities. Rather, they inscribe modalities of desire that challenge scholars of sexuality to attend to the excess and indeterminacy that eludes efforts to capture and “represent” objects of knowledge, whether “early” or “modern.”


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pp. 91-105
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