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Setting Plato StraightTranslating Ancient Sexuality in the Renaissance$
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Todd W. Reeser

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226307008

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226307145.001.0001

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Female-Female and Male-Male Eros in Dialogue

(p.258) Chapter Nine Orientations
Setting Plato Straight

Todd W. Reeser

University of Chicago Press

This chapter historicizes queer theory’s insight that lesbianism is often linked to a problem of representation by focusing on links between questions of reading and Platonic-inflected female-female erotic love. It first establishes the complicated discursive context of this larger hermeneutic question through the reception of Sapphic sexuality and, especially, of the female-female being who makes a brief appearance in Aristophanes’s myth of the origin of love from the Symposium. The chapter then turns to one of the very few Neoplatonic representations of female-female eros in the Renaissance, a series of poems by male poets written in the voice of a woman in love with another woman. Embedded within the poems by Jodelle, Tyard, and Ronsard are Neoplatonic commonplaces as well as references to male-male love. The poems are not so much inscribing same-sex female sexuality in the Neoplatonic tradition as much as they are writing it out by decorporealizing love between women. But also, the poets who write about female-female love are also inherently evoking male-male homoeroticism as a way to experience it vicariously, and for this reason, the “lesbian” poems can be taken as a newly-developed and rather sophisticated way to set Plato straight by detour.

Keywords:   Lesbianism, Sappho, Pléiade, Tyard, Jodelle, Ronsard, homosociality, tribade, masculinity, queer

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