Graham Hammill

title.none: Freccero, Queer Early Modern (Graham Hammill)

identifier.other: baj9928.0606.010 06.06.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Graham Hammill, University of Notre Dame,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Freccero, Carla. Queer/ Early/ Modern. Series Q. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. Pp. x, 182. $74.95 0-8223-3678-2. ISBN: $21.95 0-8223-3690-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.06.10

Freccero, Carla. Queer/ Early/ Modern. Series Q. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. Pp. x, 182. $74.95 0-8223-3678-2. ISBN: $21.95 0-8223-3690-1.

Reviewed by:

Graham Hammill
University of Notre Dame

Carla Freccero's Queer/ Early/ Modern is an intensely engaged and elegantly written meta-commentary on the practice of reading the past, punctuated by passionate close readings of early modern French and Italian literary texts. Throughout, Freccero's main concern is to suggest a relation between past and present indeterminacy, conflict, and aporia, and then to use that relation to read early modern and contemporary sexuality. As she puts it in her first chapter (4-5):

reading historically may mean reading against what isconventionally referred to as history. Not only do I make use ofintertextuality, a mode of figural intra- and intertermporalarticulation that might be called 'literary' rather thanhistorical, but I also invoke identification and one of itscommon effects, anachronism, as two intimately related andhallowed temporal processes that make up--like and along withdesire--queer time. These analyses proceed otherwise thanaccording to a presumed logic of cause and effect, anticipationand result; and otherwise than according to a presumed logic ofthe 'done-ness' of the past, since queer time is haunted by thepersistence of affect and ethical imperatives in and across time

Positioning herself against what she calls "solemn, even dour" historicism, Freccero moves back and forth between critical analyses of contemporary culture and queer readings of early modern texts. (3) Throughout, she develops theoretical accounts of her own scholarly practice through critiques of historians and theorists of sexuality and through a somewhat meditative engagement with theories of historiography, memory, and temporality.

In her introductory first chapter, Freccero acknowledges the charge that queer analysis is metaleptic and responds to it by arguing that early modern texts are peculiarly proleptic and, therefore, call for a kind of metapleptic analysis. In the second chapter, Freccero takes issue with Donald Morton's argument that because queer theory is deeply influenced by post-structuralism and makes anti-foundationalist interpretations, it is anti-materialist. Whereas Morton argues that gay and lesbian are better terms for historical and critical analysis because they have a reality or substance which, according to him, queer does not, Freccero proposes that queer theory is a powerful analytic tool because of its influence by post-structuralism. Precisely because it is anti-foundationalist, queer theory can become an identity and "a non-identity based critical and political practice". (15) Freccero proceeds to show what she means by doing a queer analysis of the love lyric. Beginning with Petrarch and Labe and concluding with Melissa Ethridge, Freccero show how even a form assumed to be a paean to heterosexual love has a queer trace. In her third chapter, Freccero takes on Michel Foucault and David Halperin, arguing that in writing histories of sexuality each privileges history over the literary. This privileging becomes a blind spot in both Foucault's and Halperin's historical project. Freccero focuses on a story in the Decameron that Boccaccio took from Apuleius, in which a man comes home to find his wife in bed with young boy. Upon making the discovery, he too has sex with the young boy. For Freccero, Halperin analyzes the story too strongly in the context of law which, she argues, the literary structure of the Decameron exceeds. In chapter four, Freccero takes up relations between sexuality and French national identity. Proposing that the 1999 Pacte Civil de Solidarite, which established national domestic partnership, reveals the state's deep investment in regulating family structures, Freccero shows how this regulation was operative in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. Reading the Heptameron against Oedipus, Freccero suggests that Marguerite's interest in the theme of incest belies a melancholic relation to same-sex eroticism. Finally, in chapter five, Freccero argues that queer analysis should become more attentive to the ways in which the present is affectively attached to the past, both in terms of pleasure and pain. She begins with a discussion of Brandon Teena, the male-to-female transsexual who was the victim of a horrible hate crime and became the subject of a documentary and afterwards of the film, Boys Don't Cry. Frecerro argues that attempts to tell Brandon Teena's story have to date been either melancholic ("an attempt to deal with trauma, in a sense, by refusing it as such" [75]) or colonizing (the term goes unexplained). She then gives a reading of Jean de Lery's Histoire d'un voyage en terre de Bresil which offers a different model for remembering attachments to the past. Lery was haunted by his experiences, including erotic experiences, in Brazil, which he uses to read critically late sixteenth century religious wars.

As the above overview of chapters might suggest, the book has a somewhat frenetic energy that readers will either find exhilarating or off-putting. It all depends, I suspect, on whether or not a reader accepts Freccero's central thesis. Throughout its various analyses, Queer/ Early/ Modern makes an extremely important point, one that others have made before but also one worth making over and over: because sexuality involves complex, unpredictable, and unstable relations to fact and fiction, past and future, analysis of it often necessitates critical a re-assessment of historiography. Readers committed to that thesis will find this book a pleasure. Readers unfamiliar with the theoretical and contemporary contexts and readers expecting extensive analysis of early modern literary texts are bound to feel frustrated and, perhaps, excluded from the book's intellectual enterprise.