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date: 21 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores how we might be compelled to alter our understanding of the emergence of gendered identifications and hierarchies if we were to borrow some of the rethinking of sexuality that queer theory has done with regards to same-sex desire and apply it to other non-normative sexualities—in this case, female promiscuity. Modern scholars have largely rejected the stigma attached to homoerotic desire and practice, and they have thereby been able better to understand and contest the cultural privileges accorded to heterosexual relationships. Similarly, by rejecting the stigma attached to female promiscuity, we as critics can examine how this stigma works to sustain gendered hierarchies. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint dramatize the power of the discourse of promiscuity to shape the horizons of female identity and male prerogative.

Keywords: lyric poetry, feminism, queer theory, gender, sexuality, Shakespeare, sonnets

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