Masten, Jeffrey. “Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time”, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
The Relationship Between Sexuality and the History of Language
Author Jeffrey Masten sees the history of sexuality and the history of language are intimately related. In “Queer Philologies”, he studies particular terms that further show up the history of sexuality in Shakespeare’s time and he analyzes the methods we have used to study sex and gender in literary and cultural history. He has built his ideas on the work of theorists and historians who have, following Foucault, investigated the importance of words like “homosexual,” “sodomy,” and “tribade” in a variety of cultures and historical periods. Masten then argues that “just as the history of sexuality requires the history of language, so too does philology, “the love of the word,” require the analytical lens that Foucault provided in his studies. Masten looks at the etymology, circulation, transformation, and constitutive power of key words within the early modern discourse of sex and gender (terms such as “conversation” and “intercourse”, “fundament” and “foundation,” “friend” and “boy”), words that were used to describe bodies, pleasures, emotions and sexual identities. He analyzes the continuities as well as the differences between Shakespeare’s language and our own, and offers up a ?queer lexicon in which the letter “Q” is perhaps the queerest character of all”.
There is a lot to be learned here and the book is organized in such a way that learning is easy. It is Master/s new approach to the ways that norms and normativities are studied that makes this such a unique read.
“Queer Philologies, Jeffrey Masten’s brilliant new book, makes the queerness of linguistic relations into the stuff of a genuine page-turner. Doing nothing less than reinventing the field of philology for the twenty-first century, Masten charts striking moments in the two-way traffic between words and world, exploring how accident and error figure in the shaping of sexuality and multiply its significations beyond all scholarly control. To dip into this book is to recognize that it’s destined to become a classic, one of the works without which queer theory and early modernism no longer can be thought.”—Lee Edelman, Tufts University