Beginning with the beguiling queerness of the Renaissance letter Q, Jeffrey Masten's stylishly written and extensively illustrated Queer Philologies demonstrates the intimate relation between the history of sexuality and the history of the language.
2016 | 368 pages | Cloth $59.95 | Paper $27.50
Literature | Cultural Studies
View main book page
Table of Contents
Note on Citations and Quotations
Introduction. On Q: An Introduction to Queer Philology
Chapter 1. Spelling Shakespeare: Early Modern "Orthography" and the Secret Lives of Shakespeare's Compositors
LEXICON 1. FRIENDSHIP
Chapter 2. "Sweet Persuasion," the Taste of Letters, and Male Friendship
Chapter 3. Extended "Conversation": Living with Christopher Marlowe; a Brief History of "Intercourse"
LEXICON 2. BOY-DESIRE
Chapter 4. Reading "Boys": Performance and Print
Chapter 5. "Amorous Leander," Boy-desire, Gay Shame; Or, Straightening Out Christopher Marlowe
LEXICON 3. SODOMY
Chapter 6. Is the "Fundament" a Grave? Translating the Early Modern Body
Chapter 7. When Genres Breed: "Mongrell Tragicomedie" and Queer Kinship Editing Philologies
Chapter 8. All Is Not Glossed: Editing Sex, Race, Gender, and Affect in Shakespeare
On Q: An Introduction to Queer Philology
Capitals are increased by parsimony, and diminished by prodigality and misconduct.
—Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Quin. . . . and so euery one according to his cue.
—A Midsommer Nights Dreame
Q, Without A
Introducing "queer philology," I should start at the very beginning: with the letter Q. Q is a letter with quite a history, something of a tale to tell, and we might as well begin with Samuel Johnson's erroneous tale, writing in his Dictionary of 1755: "Q, Is a consonant borrowed from the Latin or French . . . the name of this letter is cue, from queue, French, tail; its form being that of an O with a tail." This statement is, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) carefully informs us, wrong: "[An entirely erroneous guess.]" This is to say, Q is known, by the time of the nineteenth-century philology that made possible the OED, to have been derived and named "really" from a letter (koppa) in certain early Phoenician and Greek alphabets. But let us, for the moment, and in the spirit of what I hope to introduce as a queer philology, follow Johnson's cue, or his erroneous guess, back to the period with which this book is most closely concerned, the early modern, and see where this erroneous Q may lead, or (in Latin) intro/duce, us.
Q, writes the sixteenth-century French printer and humanist language reformer Geofroy Tory, in the second book of his magisterial treatise on majuscles, Champ Fleury [the Art and Science of the Due and True Proportion of Classical Letters] (1529),
est la seulle entre toutes les autres lettres qui sort hors de ligne par dessoubz, & . . . iay trouue q' [que] le. Q. sort hors de ligne pource quil ne se laisse escripre en diction entiere, sans son compaignon & bon frere. V. & pour monstrer qui le desire tousiours apres soy, Il le va embrasser de sa queue ? [par] dessoubz cōe ie figureray cy apres en son renc. (f. XIIv)As Tom Conley has observed in his important reading of Champ Fleury, Tory's plotting of majuscules within the square is part of a larger ensuing humanist project seeking the standardization of the letter. Tory's work "reflect[s] a growing uniformity of patterns of script," and, as Conley shows in his analysis of the book as a cartographic text, Tory's book works not only to map the letters of the alphabet, but also to align, within these plottings, the body of the letter and the body of the body, in what are taken to be their correct proportions. This is to say, this book not only hails, or introduces, its reader into a kind of literacy (the proper proportion of letters) but also introduces his/her body into this map; the reader imagines his/her body as or in a letter. The letter becomes standardized, and the body (here, a male body) either becomes or is already understood as the form of that standardization.
[is the only one among all the other letters that goes outside the line underneath, and . . . I have found that the Q goes outside the line because it/he does not let himself be written in a complete word, without his companion and good brother V, and in order to show who always desires him after himself, he will embrace him/seeks to embrace him with his tail [sa queue] from below, as I will hereafter illustrate in its/his place.]
It is worth pointing out, however, that Q is one point at which Tory's humanist project of standardization falters—that Q persists in Champ Fleury as the exceptional letter, the only one among all the other letters, as we have already seen, who goes outside the line (Figure 3; "lettres flevries"). Q is anomalous, too, in never being written by himself in a word; Q is thus an exception to the paradigm shift out of which Tory qua printer writes: if the innovation of movable type capitalizes on the mobility of letters (their willingness to be separated and deployed, printed and redistributed in multiple combinations), Q is, except within abbreviations, never permitted to appear singly, without his companion, V. Q is, in this sense, the letter which is not one: never alone, never functioning only as a letter, always conjoined, always desiring companionship. Johnson's history of Q leads to one even more erroneous, or errant, than the OED has imagined: we are beginning to approach the queerness of Q.
For it is not only the case that the letter Q is, in Champ Fleury, exceptional, but that Q's exceptionality is a tale tied to his tail, his errant queue. Further, the discourse that articulates Q's difference, Q's anomaly, or his going outside the line from below, is not only discourse that recent scholarship can help us recognize as anal (Q's name as well as his queue/tail homonymically suggest a cul, an "arse, bumme, tayle, nockandroe, fundament" as Cotgrave's 1611 French-English dictionary would translate), but also discourse widely associated with male-male relations during this period. Recent histories of sexuality have demonstrated that in early modern culture there was not (as there is said to be in modernity) a single "homosexuality," but rather multiple homoeroticisms—homoerotic discourses, practices, or structures that are neither self-identical (sodomy is not friendship is not pederasty) nor the same as the modern notion of "homosexuality" qua identity. If it is then, perhaps, somewhat surprising to see, in his mapping of the letter Q, Tory deploying simultaneously two of these discourses (the language of sodomy, usually condemned, and the language of homoerotic male-male friendship, usually promoted), this may again signal the extent of Q's queerness: it (or shall I say "he"?) is exceptional both as the letter with a constant friend and companion and as the letter that couples with another, with his tail from below.
When Tory returns to the letter Q in Champ Fleury's third book, which is devoted to the description and plotting of each of the twenty-three letters in alphabetic order, we learn that Q seems always tending toward jointure; indeed, Q is initially formed by a copula—made, Tory says, of the O "en teste" (tête, literally the cap/ital) and the I lying or couched "en queue" ("faicte de le. O. en teste, & de le I, couche en queue" [f. LIIIv]). Further, Tory's discourse in this extended description of Q retains both his sodomitical and his friend/ly commitments: if V is Q's ordinary companion and faithful friend ("son ordinaire compaignon, & feal amy"), Q here again seeks out and embraces V upward, from below ("querir & embrasse par dessoubz" [f. LIIIv]). We can also notice that Tory's discourse for the immediacy and position of Q and V's relation: they are linked "incontinent & ioignant" (f. LIIIv). This phrasing not only suggests immediate linkage ("as soone as may be," says Cotgrave of "incontinent" as an adverb), but may also bring with it the resonance of Q as incontinent or unchaste, with a physical proximity that is also a joining, a coupling, a touch. (As an adjective, Cotgrave translates ioignant as both "Neere vnto, hard by, . . . almost touching" and as "Ioyning, coupling" [sig. Aaa.iiii].)
The corporeal ligature of the faithful friends is embodied even more sodomitically when Tory maps the two letters in relation to each other, in an illustration that, we can notice, disrupts the otherwise serial, alphabetic order of Tory's third book, by anomalously figuring two letters together:
Pour monstrer ce que iay dit, que Q. tire & embrasse de sa queue le V. Iē [J'en] ay faict cy pres vng deseing au quel peut veoir que le bout de la ditte queue saccorde a la pointe du bout dembas de le V. (f. LIIII)The tail accords (itself) with, agrees with, the bottom of its faithful friend and ordinary companion, but again, supplementing the sodomitic, a term like s'accorde in this context may bring with it a range of friendly and even marital resonances: "Accorder vne fille," translates Cotgrave: "To handfast, affiance, betroath himselfe vnto a maiden" (sig. B.iiiiv). The agreement of the tail and the bottom may also alert us here to the confused sodometrics (or positionings) of this configuration, the strangeness (even as it appears to be already sodomitic) of a coupling of tails. Embodying in the letter a trope that is, as several critics have shown, the rhetorical figure of sodomy during the period, Q's tail is literally preposterous, a confusion of before and behind, for it leads while it also follows; simultaneously, this tail, as in English of the period, begins to function not (or not only) as tail but as yard, as penis. Embracing this tail, not unlike other yards, may eventuate in a loss of virtue; quoting Priscian, who speaks of the "vertu" (the virtue or power/value) of letters, Tory accords with, or follows the lead of, the ancient author:
[To show what I've said, that Q pulls/leads and embraces the V with his tail, I've made nearby a design in which one can see that the end/tip of the said tail accords/agrees with the point of the bottom end/tip of the V.]
Priscian autheur iadis tresillustre, en son premier Liure ou il parle de la vertu des lr'es [lettres], dict bien q' Q. veult tousiours apres luy V. pour monstrer que le dit V. pert sa vertu & son / son estant escript deuāt vne vocale en vne mesme syllabe. (f. XIIv)Following Q, the V loses his vertu—his power, which is also his "valour, prowess, manhood," as Cotgrave translates. Normally himself une vocale (a vowel), V loses as well his voice or sound ("son / son," as Tory is careful to write, aware of the homograph that joins voice and self-possession), his vocality. A subordinate sexual positioning, as elsewhere in this culture, eventuates in a loss of power understood as manhood understood as voice. This is to say, there are powerful implications to where and how one is led, or intro/duced.
[Priscian, the very illustrious author of old, in his first book, where he speaks of the virtue/power of the letters, indeed says that Q always wants V after himself to show that the said V loses his virtue/power and his sound when written before a vowel within the same syllable.]
In moving toward an introduction to philology, the love of the logos, I have instead introduced you to the love of the letter, love among the letters. But, lest you think I am overemphasizing the sexiness or corporeality of letters—lest, that is, you think I am leading you erroneously to read a metaphorical discourse of the letter as having to do with actual bodies—it is important to recall the insistence of the bodily in Tory's orthography. Champ Fleury is subtitled "the Art and Science of the due and true Proportion of classical Letters, . . . proportioned according to the Human Body and Face." As Conley has shown in detail, Tory maps the human body, and what he calls the "body" of the letters, onto a ten-by-ten grid; the graphing of letters produces an elaborate conjunction of rhetorical terms, the disciplines of classical education, and the body. In the graphing of the letter O and a recognizably Vitruvian man (f. XVIIIv), for example (Figure 5), the diagonals cross, forming a chi, at the center of the letter and the man, and it then comes as no surprise, in Tory's explanation of a figure he calls "lhomme letre" (Figure 6), that the letter X should correspond with "Dialectica" and the navel (ff. XXIIv-XXIII). This "lettered ," "learned," or "literal man" brings the twenty-three letters of the "Roman" alphabet into relation with, presents them as a parallel realization of, the "most noble members and places of the human body" ("le nōbre des. XXIII. lettres Attiques accorde, comme iay dit, aux membres & lieux pl[us] nobles du corps humain"), and with the nine muses, seven liberal arts, four cardinal virtues, and three graces, reproducing some familiar early modern hierarchies of the body: upper and lower, right and left (dextre et senestre), and so forth (ff. XXIIv-XXIII). The letter A, for example, accords with Iusticia and the right hand. The placement of Q makes corporeal and witty sense within these correspondent systems: as Conley notices, Q here makes use of "a common pun and rebus on cul" (81). Q marks "the place for discharging the belly" ("Le lieu pour decharger le ventre") with a pun also on wind (vent) and is wittily therefore associated with Euterpe, the muse of music (f. XXIIv).
But we should also notice Q's persistent anomaly, his queerness, within these schema: like the penis, Q figures one of two body parts of the literal man that here lacks a name: "the place for . . . ," rather than the straightforward nouns naming the other parts; a function, rather than an identity; a "does" as much as an "is." He is furthermore the only letter attached to the unseen backside of the lettered man, the only letter whose location cannot be seen on the map of the body. Tory writes:
Les lettres ainsi logees que voyes cy dessus, ne sōt pas logees en leur ordre Abecedaire quon tient communement, mais tout a mon essient les ay mises & appliquees selon ma petite Philosophie. (f. XXIII)But even out of the common order, outside the logic of the alphabet, "as seen above," Q cannot be seen above, is not visibly logé in this logic.
[The letters thus lodged as seen above are not placed in their alphabetical order, to which one commonly adheres, but altogether intentionally/consciously I have placed and associated them/set them out according to my little Philosophie.]
Lest you think I can draw such conclusions only by engaging in the jouissance of a French text, let me assure you that Q resists assimilation to the rule as well in English, the language at the center of this study. Q, explains Richard Huloet in his 1552 Abcedarivm Anglicolatinvm, "[i]s a mute, whych also taken as Litera super uacue, dothe desyre no letter to hym but V." Supervacue is a term rarely found in English contexts, but Wyclif translates it as both "over-void" and "over-vain." (The threat of such a letter may not be obvious to us, but, especially to a group of spelling reformers who, as we will see in Chapter 1, want to rationalize English into a one-letter/one-sound system, the threat of the mute and supervacuous letter is significant.) John Higgins, revising Huloet twenty years later, again refers to Q as a "mute" and "vnneadfull." In John Baret's Alvearie Or Triple Dictionary (1574), this discourse is expanded:
Q Hath long bene superfluously vsed in writing english woordes, whereas the Grekes neuer knew it, neither could the English saxons euer abide the abuse thereof, but alwaies vsed K when such occasion serued. As for Q in latin woordes, I meddle nothing with it here, leauing that language to be refourmed by better learned men. Yet Quintilian lib. 12. cap. 10. saith it is but a needelesse and voide letter: and Priscian also affirmeth that both K, Q , and C, haue all one power. . . . Yf then K by it selfe will serue, what neede we pester our crosrew with such superfluous letters?The discourse surrounding Q here continues to be of superfluity, but we should also note that added to this supervoid is the notion that the use of Q was an "abuse" for the Anglo-Saxons. The letter further seems to call forth the need for the reform of another language of illustrious precedent, Latin, in a passage stuffed with quotations from Latin authors, who are here adduced to testify in the service of their own deconstruction; Baret virtually makes Quintillian drop his own name into the void that Q spells out here. Once again, Q creates a disturbance in alphabetic order, "pestering" the cross-row (that is, the arrangement of letters in the alphabet used to teach children their letters). Pestering was worse, less trivial, in early modern England than it has come to be: "to pester" was to "overcrowd" and to "annoy," but also to "intricate, intangle, trouble, incomber" (Cotgrave, sig. Gg.iv). As a term, cross-row mingles orthographic and sacred orders (it was also known as the Christ-cross-row, because in hornbooks the row of letters usually began with a cross before the A [Figure 7]), and this may signal the extent to which the threat of Q in Baret is significant. Abuse in this culture carried with it religious and sodomitic associations we have since lost: among those who "shall not inherite the kingdome of God" in the Authorized Version of the Bible (1611) are "fornicatours, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselues with mankinde," and Tindale (1530) associates the "abuse [of] men's wives" with "sodomitry."
If Q has lost his gender in Baret, he has given it over to K in Ben Jonson's English Grammar, where Q is described as
a Letter we might very well spare in our Alphabet, if we would but use the serviceable k. as he should be, and restore him to the right of reputation he had with our Fore-fathers. For, the English-Saxons knew not this halting Q. with her waiting-woman u. after her, but exprestIf Jonson is unusual in giving a letter a feminine gender, it is perhaps not surprising that the playwright of Epicoene, or the Silent Woman would make the letter that can be spared a female. Q has eroded the reputation of the patriarchally derived K of the Anglo-Saxons; Q's femininity is furthermore "halting" (i.e., limping, or imperfect). (Again, the translators of the Authorized Version, describing their work, help to contextualize: "if [in prior translations] any thing be halting, or superfluous, or not so agreeable to the originall, the same may bee corrected, and the trueth set in place.") The only letter with an attendant, Jonson's Q is a foreign interloper and usurper of the prerogatives of natural male English letters—an accident of custom, the "enfranchisement" (i.e., naturalization) of alien words. Not only female, she becomes an alien or slave-born letter, in the other related sense of enfranchise: having political privileges she did or should not have. Qu: two women together, taking liberties. We may even hear, in this Jacobean text of Jonson's, the play of the majuscules Q and K as queen and king: a plea, not so long after Elizabeth and in the time of Anna, against queens, for an Englished Salic law, or against foreign queens. To think like Christopher Marlowe for a moment: is the emigré(e) Q a Gaveston (desiring no other to him but V?) or an Isabella?
quaile. . . kuaile.
quest. . kuest.
Til custome under the excuse of expressing enfranchis'd words with us, intreated her into our Language, in
quarel quintessence, &c.
And hath now given her [the] best of ks. possession.
Indeed, to find a defense of errant, alien Q, one must go to the borders of English, to the text of a Scottish orthography reformer, Alexander Hume, writing his treatise Of the Orthographie and Congruitie of the Britan Tongue (c. 1617). Like Baret, Hume is concerned with "use" and "abuse," and he titles his fifth chapter "Of Our Abusing Sum Consonants." Abuse, for Hume, in a way that should remind us of Tory, is associated with the arrangement of the body and the formation of letters; in his chapter titled "Of the Rules to Symbolize," Hume insists upon the clarity and differentiation of parts of the body as registered in writing: "it is clere that soundes pronounced with this organ can not be written with symboles of that; as, for exemple, a labiel symbol can not serve a dental nor a guttural sound; nor a guttural symbol a dental nor a labiel sound" (18). This is the trouble with the under-use of Q in English, which produces in Hume's text an unusual narrative break from his sequence of numbered orthographical rules:
8. [In "Of the Rules to Symbolize"] To clere this point, and alsoe to reform an errour bred in the south and now usurped be our ignorant printeres, I wil tel quhat befel my self quhen I was in the south with a special gud frende of myne. Ther rease, upon sum accident, quhither quho, quhen, quhat, etc., sould be symbolized with q or w, a hoat disputation betuene him and me. After manie conflictes (for we often encountered), we met be chance, in the citie of Baeth, with a Doctour of divinitie of both our acquentance. He invited us to denner. At table my antagonist, to bring the question on foot amangs his awn condisciples, began that I was becum an heretik, and the doctour spering [i.e., asking] how, ansuered that I denyed quho to be spelled with a w, but with qu. Be quhat reason? quod the Doctour. Here, I beginning to lay my grundes of labial, dental, and guttural soundes and symboles, he snapped me on this hand and he on that, that the doctour had mikle a doe to win me room for a syllogisme. Then (said I) a labial letter can not symboliz a guttural syllab. But w is a labial letter, quho a guttural sound. And therfoer w can not symboliz quho, nor noe syllab of that nature. Here the doctour staying them again (for al barked at ones), the proposition, said he, I understand; the assumption is Scottish, and the conclusion false. Quherat al laughed, as if I had bene dryven from al replye, and I fretted to see a frivolouse jest goe for a solid ansuer. (18)This passage—an extraordinary tale of national shaming around the use of the letter Q—brings together a number of the discourses we have been examining. If the allegation of heresy against the Q-user begins as an exaggerating jest, we can nevertheless notice that Hume's argument in this episode is with a Doctor of Divinity; the question of Q's supervacuity is again brought into the realm of the theological—the Christ-cross-row again troubled. If the level of affect Hume accords this incident seems to us extravagant, we can further notice that significant homosocial bonds and relations are at stake: Hume is encountering again a "special gud frende of myne" who, in the course of the tale, becomes his "antagonist"; the doctor is of their mutual "acquentance"; the friend crosses over to the side of other "condisciples." Also at issue is the proper disposition of the body, its members, and their inseparable link to the alphabet; the corporeal "grundes" of speech and writing are being undermined, to Hume's obvious discomfort: even as the question is brought "on foot" and he is being disciplined on the one hand and on the other, throat and labia are being confused. The episode also adjudicates national boundaries; according to the doctor, Q is the province of heresy, of Scottish assumptions that lead to false conclusions. To Hume, to the contrary, the under-use of Q, the "errour bred in the south," requires reformation; it involves an error or errancy of the body, the wandering away of the "special gud frende," a perverse turn away from bodily and national grounds.
[To [make] clear this point, and also to reform an error bred in the south and now usurped by our ignorant printers, I will tell what befell myself when I was in the south with a special good friend of mine. There rose, upon some accident, whether who, when, what, etc., should be symbolized with q or w—a hot disputation between him and me. After many conflicts (for we often encountered), we met by chance in the city of Bath, with a Doctor of Divinity of both our acquaintance. He invited us to dinner. At table, my antagonist, to bring the question on foot amongst his own condisciples, began that I was become an heretic, and, the Doctor [asking] "How?" [my friend] answered that I denied who to be spelled with a w, but [rather] with qu. "By what reason?" quoth the Doctor. Here, I, beginning to lay my grounds of labial, dental, and guttural sounds and symbols, he snapped me on this hand and he on that, that the Doctor had [much] ado to win [myself] room for a syllogism. "Then," said I, "a labial letter cannot symbolize a guttural syllable. But w is a labial letter; who, a guttural sound. And therefore w cannot symbolize who, nor no syllable of that nature." Here the Doctor, staying them again (for all barked at once): "The proposition," said he, "I understand; the assumption is Scottish, and the conclusion false." Whereat all laughed, as if I had been driven from all reply, and I fretted to see a frivolous jest go for a solid answer.]
But I seem to be leading you away from, rather than introducing you to, as promised, a kind of philology, so it is perhaps time to lay down some groundwork, some fundamentals—to make room for some syllogisms, some rules of philology. "If the fundacion be not sure," writes Hume in his dedication to King James VI and I, "the maer gorgiouse the edifice[,] the grosser the falt." Let us start again, then, from the beginning:
A. This book argues that the study of sex and gender in historically distant cultures is necessarily a philological investigation—in this case, a detailed study of the terms and related rhetorics that early modern English culture used to inscribe bodies, pleasures, affects, sexual acts, and, to the extent we can speak of these, identities.
B. As this catalog will suggest, the project builds on the work of theorists and historians who have, following Foucault, investigated the historical and cultural specificity of words like homosexual, sodomy, and tribade.
C. Thus interested in practicing the detailed analysis of linguistic evidence employed by an older philological study, the book proposes a renewed historical philology that investigates the etymology, circulation, transformation, and constitutive power of some "key words" within early modern lexicons and discourses of sex and gender.
D. In the first sense that we will give to the term queer philology, this is to practice a philology of the queer—that is, of sexual practices, the positioning of bodies and body parts, and "identities" that seem nonnormative, whether in their own time or, especially, from this historical distance.
E. The book is organized around a series of terms that function as a variorum for analyzing sex/gender and their manifold associations in early modern English culture—terms chosen to illustrate both the continuities of early modern language with our own, and its alterities.
F. This lexicon—including, for example, conversation and intercourse, fundament and foundation, sweet and amorous, tup and top—is proposed not as a comprehensive account of early modern sex/gender vocabularies, but rather as a set of sites for thinking both about structures of sex and gender (what does it mean, for example, that conversation and intercourse have exchanged meanings since the seventeenth century?) and about early modern structures of language (what does it mean that fundament, fundacion, and foundation are sometimes used interchangeably?).
G. Beginning from the analysis of a specific term, each chapter moves toward a broader analysis of the circulation of sex/gender discourses and their relation to other formative but often undernoticed languages of this culture, as located in a variety of other texts.
H. It is thus the project of this book both to spell out the historical particularities of early modern orthography, structures of rhetoric, and vocabulary and to read anew the textual record left by this culture—a record, as Q emblematizes and Chapter 4's discussion of boys in/as letters demonstrates, that sometimes straddles a boundary we would erect between the literal (letteral), textual, and visual.
I. There can be no nuanced cultural history of early modern sex and gender without spelling out its terms—for what alternatives of historical access do we have? Comprehension of sex will require philology. (As we will see in Chapter 3, even a term as apparently clinical and transparent as sexual intercourse requires philological attention.) As Stephen G. Nichols writes, in an introduction to "New Philology" in medieval studies, "philology is the matrix out of which all else springs." (We will return to Nichols's matrix and this claim.)
K. We are practicing philology, so this may require attending, with all the objectivity we can muster, to philology's concerns, in the language of its discipline: to its matrices (whether of tongues or of pieces of type, type-faces); to the etymologies (which is, to translate, the true origins, the genealogies) of words; to families of related languages; to the pursuit of linguistic roots; to stemmata (that is, the family stems or trees or pedigrees) of manuscripts and printed texts, their lines of descent, contamination, and corruption; to the fidelity or faithfulness of translations; to the mongrelization of literary genres; to spurious (which is, to translate, "illegitimate, false . . . bastard, adulterous") words.
L. We may notice that the orderings of philology will lead us to edit, to eliminate, to castigate as the early modern humanists would say (which is to say, we may find ourselves led toward making chaste or pure) the guesses we can identify as "entirely erroneous." The word guess is, of course, of obscure descent, but seems to come from get, "to get, obtain, to beget." What then is Samuel Johnson's Q, from the French queue for tail, but a bastard child?
By escalating the critical rhetoric here—imitating the assured pronouncements of some earlier practitioners of philology and reaching the impasse of L. above, putting pressure on a number of philology's terms, a process that will continue throughout this book—I hope I have begun obliquely to draw attention to some of the assumptions and problems of traditional philology as it emerges out of classical textual recovery, editing, correction, errata sheets, and "castigation" in the Renaissance; as it reaches an extensive flowering in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century comparative linguistic philology of William Jones, Friedrich Schlegel, Franz Bopp, Jacob Grimm, and many others; as it comes to dominate scholarship in European and eventually American universities and produces a New English Dictionary that will become the OED; and as it continues as a deep, if contested, disciplinary structure inflecting later literary, editorial, historical, linguistic, philosophical, and cultural scholarship. Erich Auerbach's mid-twentieth-century association of a culture of "civilization" and its emergent "need to constitute authentic texts" suggests the persistence of philology in the rhetoric of editorial work on early modern texts at least into the late twentieth century, a connection that motivates the final section of this book.
This story of philology as an emergent and then hegemonic discipline has been told by others—perhaps, as Seth Lerer and Gregory Nagy suggest, from its very beginnings. At the outset of the twentieth century, Ferdinand de Saussure's notes for the Course in General Linguistics famously begin with a critical, pocket history of philology and comparative philology as prelude ("erroneous and insufficient") to the emergence of a "true science of linguistics," and in recent decades scholars, including Hans Aarsleff, Anthony Grafton, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Stephanie Jed, and Lerer, have elaborated aspects of this story, often including critical discussion of philology's ideological assumptions and blind spots. It is not the goal of this book to tell that story comprehensively again; that is a task perhaps best left to the classicist, Germanist, or Victorianist I am not, though, as Aarsleff's history shows, the English influence on and development of this story have been undernoted, given later hegemonies within the discipline. Neither is it the goal of this book to draw a bright, definitional line around "philology": as these histories have suggested and as other critics have observed, to hazard a definition of this discipline—this historically variant, enlarging/narrowing set of practices—can seem like folly. Writing in the mid-twentieth century, René Wellek and Austin Warren opine that "[s]ince the term has so many and such divergent meanings, it is best to abandon it." Indeed, as Aarsleff recounts in demonstrating the early emergence out of debates in philosophies of language and as Roberta Frank succinctly summarizes, philology (gendered female in Frank's account) seems perpetually defined in opposition: "Philology resists regularization or definition. Her identity is relational, dependent on a constantly shifting opposite principle, variously called philosophy, linguistics, psychology, theory, dialectics, antiquarianism, truth, social utility, or didacticism." Aarsleff proposes to use "the term 'study of language' rather than 'philology,'" arguing that "the history we seek will gain neither continuity nor coherence if we in advance decide to limit it to such work as may deserve the name of philology in the narrower sense, a decision that has by and large been left to German scholars."
Thus, instead, while relying on a general (and capacious, not-strictly-bounded) understanding of philology as an uneven and historically shifting set of transnational practices that has variously incorporated comparative linguistic study, the histories of languages, etymology (on a spectrum we might describe as ranging from "impressionistic" to "scientific"), textual editing, translation, modernization, and correction (and incorporating within such editorial practice the study of original documents in manuscript and print), Queer Philologies seeks as part of its project to draw critical attention, as in my alphabetic progression above, to the ways in which philology's manifold methods and rhetorics of investigation are often themselves thoroughly implicated in the languages of sex, gender, and the body that I am studying.
You may have noticed that the increasing adamancy of my alphabetized pronouncements above begins to border on what Carla Freccero brilliantly terms "phallolog[y]." Philology's investments in phallology—more precisely, its self-construction through normative languages of sex, gender, reproduction, and the body—are evident at least since the Renaissance, as Jed persuasively showed in her analysis of languages of castigation and chastity at the heart of humanist textual practice. To take a familiar English example that may resonate anew here, the actors acting as text-gathering editors of the Shakespeare first folio collection (1623) argue that they seek to provide the playwright's textual "Orphanes" the surrogate parentage of "Guardians" (i.e., patrons) and that they present the previously "maimed, and deformed" bodily members of his textual corpus as "cur'd, and perfect of their limbes." While not systematically developed, such corporeal and familial rhetoric resonates with later examples drawn from the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century emergence and apogee of philology's disciplinary practice: Johann Gottfried von Herder's influential Treatise upon the Origin of Language (1771; English trans., 1827) employs "often-repeated organic metaphors" and sees language as a "natural being" governed by "natural laws"; James Ingram's Inaugural Lecture on the Utility of Anglo-Saxon Literature (1807) argues "we must study, if I may use the expression, the comparative anatomy of human language; we must dissect"; Bopp, writing in the 1820 English version of the treatise that essentially founds comparative philology, is one of many to use eventually standard rhetoric of a "family of languages," "kindred dialects," and "sister languages." As Lerer notes in emphasizing the aspirations of philology by analogy to science, Schlegel, too, sees a relation between the comparative grammar of languages and comparative anatomy, and, later, the American philologist William Dwight Whitney uses the suggestive title The Life and Growth of Language (1875). Lerer in particular has noted the way in which Bopp's terms "all come together to inflect the rhetoric of comparative philology with the idioms of biology" (Raymond Williams also remarked the methodologically parallel, contemporary development of evolutionary biology and comparative philology), and Lerer remarks that "[c]omparative philology, in these terms, reads like an investigation into family relationships"—though he does not analyze the heteronormative and reproductive implications of this dominant rhetoric. Indeed, this rhetoric sometimes inflects Lerer's own discussion, as when he writes that Sir William Jones "sired the modern discipline of comparative philology." (A queer philology is here bound to ask: sired with or "on" whom?) Saussure, for all his revolutionary critique of traditional philology, remains deeply embedded in the familial paradigm of languages: "Scientific observation of linguistic similarities proves that two or more idioms may be akin, i.e. that they have a common origin. A group of related languages makes up a family."
So ingrained has this mode of description become in our default modes of thinking about language that it seems almost impossible to think outside of them. Jed's exposition of two sets of terms, implicated both in the texts on the rape of Lucretia she analyzes and in subsequent editorial and interpretive accounts of those texts, "words related to touching or the absence of touching—tangible, contaminate, contact, integrity, intact , etc." and "words related to cutting—chastity, castigate, caste, and Latin carere ('to be cut off from, to lack')," brings brilliantly to the surface the implication of humanist editorial practice in rhetorics of sexual/power-ful contact and contamination. (These terms find remoter echoes in my treatment of textual "corruption" in mid-twentieth-century New Bibliography's study of compositors in Chapter 1.) Yet Jed also describes these sets of terms as two joined but "conflicting lexical families of terms." The analysis of bodily and lineal integrity central (one could say "integral") to her analysis of humanism's "chaste thinking" is surely also embedded in theories of "Indo-European" language "families" and the tracing of their etymological "roots."
These examples—many more from the vast annals of philology could be supplied—begin to suggest the ways in which philology's rhetoric and practice are susceptible to queer analysis and critique, requiring a revision of the assurance (above) of what philology can enact with regard to the history of sexuality. This is to say, revising dictum I. above, that,
I.vEven as "comprehension of sex will require philology," at the same time, this book does not (cannot) seek simply to illuminate, in positivist mode, terms of sex, gender, and the body via a philological method that would seem to make them yield up their truth as discourses. Rather, we will also see that there is rarely philology without sex—rarely, that is, an analysis of language and textual transmission, contamination, and correction that does not draw upon or intersect with terms from the lexicons of sex, gender, reproduction, the body, and the family.What does it mean, for example, to think of some words (and works) as "spurious"? And therefore of proper words as having a readily identifiable parent, a traceable lineage? Why are words, languages, and sometimes literary genres (as we will see in Chapter 7) understood as necessarily heterosexual, or at least reproductive—familial in their circulation, transmission, dispersal, and alteration? To return to an example cited above, when Nichols argues that "philology is the matrix out of which all else springs," we should notice that philology is both being described as an order or system that preexists the objects of its study and being figured in specifically sex/gendered terms: the mother (matrix, or "womb," mater) of its inventions.
To practice a queer philology is, in part, to attempt to denaturalize these powerful rhetorics. Though not explicitly focused on philology's queering and queerable potential, Jonathan Culler remarks that "the notion of philology as a basis which is somehow prior to literary and cultural interpretation is an idea that one should seriously question, and an idea, moreover, that philology itself, in principle as well as in practice, provides us with the tools for questioning." A number of critics have joined Culler in remarking philology's capacity for self-critique; Frank notes that philology "is perhaps best recognized by her skeptical stance and disruptiveness, her unwillingness to commit herself quickly, not by her shape, which is always changing" and Lerer sees self-critique at work in Auerbach's Mimesis: "The paradox of philological inquiry, then, lies in its claim to rescue a patrimoine spirituel while at the same time exposing the underminings of that patrimony." But the language of patrimony, the "ravages of time" (related etymologically to ravishment and rape) from which Auerbach says it must be saved, as well as (female) philology's changing shape, can again remind us of the need for a specifically queer philology attuned to sex/gender nonnormativity. This is not to exclude other forms of critique and engagement; Harpham has explored the reliance of comparative Indo-European philology on concepts of Aryan race/nation and, as Lerer pointedly notes and Aarsleff also documents, "[t]he history of orientalism in the nineteenth century is the history of linguistics." In a Shakespearean editorial context, Chapter 8 attempts to engage philology at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and race.
Why take Q as an emblem of such a queer philology? Part of an answer, as I've begun to suggest, is implicit in Johnson's etymology of Q and the OED's treatment of it. For it is one of the contentions of this project that
M.An analysis of historically prior languages, rhetorics, genres, words, spellings, and even letters will lead us in the direction of "queer" philologies that have been de-emphasized or submerged in more traditional accounts of language.Johnson's conclusion, and indeed his method (a method the OED editors call "guessing"), must be carefully policed by the OED's bracketing: it must be made to seem a queer philology. But as we have seen—however "erroneous" it now seems as a "guess," however "false" Johnson's etymology from the perspective of a book and now website originally known as the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society—Q's tail did make sense in early modern culture, in a way that has some significance both for our understanding of early modern language and for our understanding of early modern sex/gender discourses and practices. Q and, by extension, these "queer" or anomalous philologies have significant explanatory power for a cultural study of early modern England.
The story of Q is a queer philology, but Q itself can be an emblem for queer study in another sense: as the exceptional letter or term that stands outside the (contingent) orderings of an emergent early modern philology of letters. If we can shorthand those orderings as ortho/graphy ("right-writing," spelling order allied to rectitude, an emergent early modern idea, as we will see in Chapter 1), then to study Q, to practice a queer philology, is, by contrast, to investigate moments of early modern skaiography—crooked writing, to use the antonym of orthography proposed by Hume, our shamed Scottish user of Q. Skaiographie comes from skaio-, "left, left-handed, awkward, crooked," related to the Latin scaeuitas, "[i]nstinctive choosing of the wrong; perversity." We could turn back to the preposterous trajectory of Q's tail in Tory, the perverse tail that leads rather than follows; skaiography is writing leftward, backward, against the grain.
Like several of the examples of queer philology that structure this book, like skaiography, Q is the letter that does not maintain good order and moves beyond the square; the letter that functions (unletterlike) only inseparably with another letter; the letter whose correspondence with the body is marked as unseen, whose location on the backside is said to exist outside of legibility (a place not of the body, but for "discharging" the body, a place said to be, in the normative order of things, a void); the letter that disrupts the common order by leading in another letter prematurely, out of his place. In these ways, Q seems to work within and against orthography and philology as they begin to emerge in their early modern forms.
As the letter that can be spared, Q further stands for both the alterity and the historical contingency of the early modern alphabet, the cross-row. Q demonstrates that the alphabet, as a rudimentary technology for the study of language (a philology), is a product of its culture: a structure (like philology as a discipline) that is at once contested, re/formed, persistent, changing, ideologically marked. If the alphabet were always and already the same, we would have no trouble singing Thomas Morley's early modern cross-row song (Figure 8), with its twenty-four letters, its "double w," and its now-cryptic conclusion "tittle tittle. est Amen." Further, if Jonson, Baret, and others had had their way, the alphabet might have lost Q (just as it has gained U and J). Thus, Q may also be the emblem of the persistence of disseminated linguistic practice over the prescriptions of theory, the persistence of the "custom" that "enfranchises" alien words over linguistic discipline. (As we will see in Chapter 1, it is relevant to remember that when spelling standardization eventually does take place in English, it does so not along the lines prescribed by sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century spelling reformers.) Q thus exposes the attempted performativity of the cross-row, its striving after order; this is the cross-row: Amen, so be it. Q pesters the notion of the cross-row. A queer philology thus might dwell on the contingencies and perturbations of the alphabet and other philologies, the moments of cited supervacuity—it might forego the possibility of singing, as if it were a possible conclusion to reach: "now I know my ABC's." Or, remembering the historical specificity of alphabets, one might sing "now I know my ABC's—only for now, only for this 'now.'" Q signals letters' alterity and continuity.
Taking Q as an emblem of queer philology, I want to broaden this project of reading through and against the discipline of traditional philology to apply to the other activities of a queer philology in this book beyond the (in)dividual letter. In the chapters that follow I will attend to other "sodometries" within our critical reading practices; as Jonathan Goldberg has pointed out, sodometry is an early modern term for both sexual positionings and the argument that seems to be false. I will thus be attending to what we call "false" etymologies, as we have seen—but also to:
N. Ostensible textual cruxes thought to be nonsensical and thus in need of modern emendation (especially in Chapters 1, 8, and 9);
O. Early modern spellings that have been modernized (translated?) by later readers and editors (especially in Chapters 6, 8, and 9); and
P. The overlapping, or co-extant, senses that the indispensable philology of the OED would nevertheless separate into discrete meanings and separate words (especially in Chapters 3 and 5-9).
In this second sense of queer philology, then, I mean to rely upon (as I hope that I have been illustrating) the utility of the discipline of philology, but also to insist that this discipline be read and practiced in a way that will highlight its own normativizing categories and elisions: "discipline" in another sense. This rereading of philology's disciplin(ing) will extend as well to the textual and editorial practices that have played a significant role in philology's development and practice (from at least the Renaissance to the present, as Grafton emphasizes)—including textual bibliography, its terms, and techniques (Chapters 1, 4, 8-9); paleography (Chapter 3); and glossarial commentary (Chapters 2, 4, 5, 9, and especially 8).
We have already noted, in Q, that concerns about perversities of sexual practice often arise simultaneously with concerns about such perversities of representation (superfluity, exceptionality). Lee Edelman has theorized this conjunction in modernity, describing "the critical . . . significance that our culture has come to place on the identification of 'the homosexual,' . . . the historical relationship that has produced gay sexuality in a discourse that associates it with figures of nomination or inscription." Noting the traditional designation of sodomy as "the horrible crime/sin not to be named among Christians," Edelman emphasizes that "homosexual practices have been placed in [a] powerful, and [a] powerfully proscriptive, . . . relation to language" (5). To translate Edelman back into Huloet's terms: Q "[i]s a mute, whych also taken as Litera super uacue, dothe desyre no letter to hym but V." (Homoerotic desire and representational difficulty coexist.) If my translation is in some particulars unfaithful (as we say) to Edelman, and if we must be wary, when speaking of early modernity, of some modern terms Edelman uses even under erasure (e.g., homosexual and identity), I think that we can nevertheless see the queer philology I am trying to introduce through Q as usefully related or conjoined to the critical practice Edelman calls homographesis: "Like writing . . . , homographesis would name a double operation: one serving the ideological purposes of a conservative social order intent on codifying identities in its labor of disciplinary inscription, and the other resistant to that categorization, intent on de-scribing the identities that order has so oppressively inscribed" (10, emphasis in the original). Q is both writing (inscribing) and unwriting (de-scribing). Translating into the terms we have been reading, and into a historically prior period, we can observe this double operation: on the one hand, the labor of philology's disciplinary inscription (call it Tory's ten-by-ten grid, accompanied by the liberal arts and muses; or orthography; or alphabetical order; or the cross-row; or, in a different historical register, the OED) and, simultaneously (as our double operation, on the same hand), the de-scription (the written unwriting) spelled out by Q (call this going outside the line; or writing on the unseen backside; or skaiography; or pestering the cross-row; or, in the critical practice this book seeks to enact, philology made queer).
The Body and the Letter
Like bodies, the bodies of letters have positions and, in early modern English, desires. Largely this is no longer the case: your word-processing software, unless it is queerer than mine, won't let you extend the kern (or tail) of the Q under the bottom point of the V. In the late seventeenth century when Joseph Moxon was writing his manual on printing, this was still possible: "every next Letter is turned with its Nick downwards, that the Kern of each Letter may lie over the Beard of its next." For us, as for Moxon, Q no longer is seen to desire, or attributed the perverse monogamy he has in Huloet, to "desyre no letter to hym but V." What do these positionings of letters, this desire of a letter to have another to him, tell us about the positions of the bodies of persons and their desires? In an undated, probably late sixteenth-century English alphabet of calligraphic "grotesques", the body of the Q includes and extends into other bodies, across and within species—including two men who face each other within the letter, with another facing forward (or is it backward?). Two further examples follow.
The first turns us back to French for a moment, or at least to a French moment in an English play. In what has become Act 3, Scene 6, of Shakespeare's Henry V, the French herald Mountioy (Montjoy) enters to Henry and his army and, speaking for the French king, says, "Now wee speake vpon our Q. and our voyce is imperiall" (Figure 10). What does it mean for the French king to speak upon his Q? Of course we know what this means in the English context. The "Q." upon which Mountioy speaks is his "cue": "The concluding word or words of a speech in a play, serving as a signal or direction to another actor to enter, or begin his speech" (OED). Along with kew, ku, quew, q, quue, que, and kue (the Henry V quarto text's spelling), capital Q is a circulating early modern spelling of cue.
But why? Is this Q from queue (French, for tail) as the OED suggests, noting at the same time the apparent lack of evidence? Might we follow seventeenth-century hard-word lists in seeing Q instead as an abbreviation? In the 1625 edition of his Guide into the Tongues, John Minsheu writes, "Qu, a terme vsed among Stage-plaiers, à Lat. Qualis, . . . at what manner of word the Actors are to beginne to speake one after another hath done his speech." Or compare Charles Butler, in his English Grammar (1633): "q a note of entrance for Actors, (because it is the first letter of quando, when) shewing when to enter and speak." Does the king, then, speak upon something (his qualis, on some manner, or quality of word, of his own)? Or does he speak at some time (his quando, following upon some prior Q)? Who or what can Q a king?
No matter whom you follow here (Minsheu or Butler), Q, in acting, is about positioning: upon a quality; after what's prior. Henry addresses Mountioy upon both these grounds: "I know thy qualitie," he says, then (instructing him to break sequence): "Turne thee back, / And tell thy King, I doe not seeke him now." Which way does the herald's Q lead: back or forth? Does it matter that, in the franglais of English heraldry, queue is also a term for tail?
The French king's Q is somewhat past ("Though we seem'd dead, we did but sleepe"), and there are an abundance of anticipated or missed Qs in Shakespeare. "Mistris Page, remember you your Qu." Beatrice says, "Speake Count, tis your Qu." Bottom is above all the subject of the missed Q: "you speake all your part at once, cues and all," says Quince. "Piramus enter, your cue is past." "When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next is, most faire Piramus." "Deceiuing me, / Is Thisbies cue; she is to enter." (Bottom's dream, itself a kind of sodometry, is dreamt in the space of the missing Q.) The centrality of women's "cues" (and boys acting women's cues)—especially in proximity to the frequent Count/cunt homograph, as in one of these examples—may mean that additional kinds of bodies and body parts are at stake in these lines. The Schoolmaster in The Two Noble Kinsmen tells his morris dancers, who are lacking a woman to complete their dance, to "marke [their] Cue." Minsheu defines "a Cu &c." as "a womans &c. a Quaint, as Chaucer termes it." (Does Mountioy's Q coincide with the "Count"/cunt/gown on which Princess Katherine's body-centered language lesson ends two scenes earlier?) In print at least, Shakespeare's "cues" seem to move without friction among spellings—some "Qu," some "cue," and "Q." What did an early modern audience hear when it heard actors marking cues, missing cues, speaking upon their Qs? Is a Q a character, a word, an ideogram or -graph, a "hieroglyph," an emblem, a body, or a body part?
My second example of the relation of letters to bodies is a pedagogical one, and it is also about bodily positioning, the relation of heads and tails and horns and Qs. "Mounsieur, are you not lettred?" says the Braggart to the Pedant in the 1623 folio text of Shakespeare's Loues Labour's lost (5.1); "Yes, yes," says the Braggart's Boy, "he teaches boyes the Horne-booke: What is A b speld backward with the horn on his head?" The conjunction of bodies (horns and heads), books, and backward letters seems a mere joke, but this confluence, as we have come to expect, is more than simply occasional. To gloss it, to expand on what Patricia Parker has noted as the conjunction of "paederastic . . . 'tutoring'" and "the inversion of alphabetical sequence," we can turn to an obscure 1622 publication, Hornbyes Hornbook, a nineteen-page poem in celebration of the hornbook, the near homograph of its author, William Hornbye. Hornbye's verse is not exactly memorable, but other aspects of this publication are, in bringing together for us the conjunction of letters, bodies, and the alterity of the early modern pedagogical scene—of teaching boys the hornbook and thus inculcating the alphabet.
Hornbye's book is in large part taken up with a celebration of the hornbook (the sheet of paper containing the cross-row and the Lord's Prayer, usually tacked on a piece of wood and covered with transparent horn; Figure 7). Anticipating an aspect of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century philological debates, Hornbye argues that the hornbook is the key to all culture: "The Horn-booke of all books I doe commend, / For the worlds knowledge, it doth cõpreh?d" (B1), the poem begins, and all "vertues first doe flow / From the Originall, the Christ-crosse-row" (B2). The poem goes on like this for a dozen or so pages, describing the usefulness of the hornbook for all the lettered professions, criticizing schoolmasters who "basely doth abuse it, / Because they want discretion how to vse it" (B7). If the antecedent of "it" here is not entirely clear, we can note (with Elizabeth Pittenger's, Alan Stewart's, and Wendy Wall's important contextualizations) that the passage seems strongly to allude to the ubiquitous allegations of schoolmasters' violence in beating. As if signaled by this connection, Hornbye suddenly breaks off his encomium to the hornbook in order "[t]o tell a tale, the like was neuer told," and the poem begins its only subsection, with a solid line across the text and a centered title: "A Tale." As Hornbye notes, this is a tale of tails (like Q, a homograph), for it concerns his own traumatic beating at the hands of a schoolmaster:
Now I begin to tell a tale of sorrowWe can note in passing some ideas we have already engaged, here describing the positioning of the student: he is backward (which is the direction of the tail?); his affection is turned; he had an inclination toward learning. The poem then proceeds to narrate, in astonishingly anal detail, an episode that begins with the boys locking the schoolmaster out of the schoolhouse ("We shut him forth of dores incontinent"). All but six of the sixty boys defect (they "[w]ent to their Master, and themselues submitted; / Because (indeed) their bumbs began to itch, / They all went crouching for to saue their britch, / Thus they esteemed more their nether part, / Th? foule disgrace . . . ," and they thus "saue their tayles"). At the end of the revolt, Hornbye and his schoolmates are beaten: they are taken to the bake-house and treated (literally) as meat:
Euen of my taile: I went to Peterborrow
To reape more learning, then before I had;
But yet I prou'd more backward, and more bad,
By reason that my Masters strict correction,
Turn'd quite from him my loue, and my affection,
That unto learning then I had no mind,
To which before I greatly was inclind. (sig. B7v)
When I came there, my heart began to faile,When Hornbye has finished narrating this "tayle of lamentation, / Euen of our tayles great grief" (C1v), he returns immediately to his discussion of the hornbook, but, surprisingly, to a discussion of how the hornbook also contains the knowledge necessary for a good marriage ("a Coniunction Copplatiue most chaste" [C2]), with strong advice for men against sex outside marriage:
To see such cost prouided for my taile:
For he prouision priuily had got,
Which made my brich to sting, it was so hot;
There was prepared Rods a large elne long,
Of tuffe-red-willowes binded very strong;
Pepper and salt he did together blend,
Full halfe a pecke he on our tayles did spend:
Twixt euery fower yerkes, we a handfull had
On our bare-bumbs, which almost made vs mad. (C1)
But they which other womens kindnes proue,Much more could be said about Hornbyes Hornbook and its peculiar conjunctions, but I want to notice here the correlation of discourses of alphabetic backwardness (for the married man as well as for the backward student boy) with sodomitical scenes (whether this is extramarital sex for men, or the hint of bare-bumb pederasty for the boy, linked in curious sequitur).
There is a breach of Wedlocks honest loue.
These doe euen Hell for a iust stripe earne,
And so (indeed) the Horn-booke backwards learne. (C2v)
But we can also notice, in a way that anticipates our discussion of early modern boy-desire in Chapters 4-5, that the alternative to the harsh schoolmaster and his attention to the "hinder parts" of his boys while teaching them the hornbook is not, shall we say, a hands-off pedagogical approach. The boy William Hornbye's backwardness is the result of a lack of affection for his schoolmaster, and the solution to the problem of learning is not a total dissociation, but rather a conjunction illustrated in Hornbye's dedicating his book to three young gentlemen, possibly his students, in an affectionate language that may seem oddly positioned to modern eyes. This Mr. W. H., for so he signs himself, both writes of his "love" and affection for these three young men (dwelling upon their "chaste eyes" and "youthful yeares" [A3v]) and positions them in affectionate relation to each other:
Conioyning you together, as tis right,These are the other copulative conjunctions of the schoolmaster. "[Y]ong children," writes Roger Ascham, in his Præface to The Scholemaster (1570), "[are] soner allured by loue, than driuen by beating, to atteyne good learning." The options are alluring, or driving: seduction and an introduction into philology are etymologically related. A problem in early modern pedagogy, in teaching boys the hornbook, is how to position bodies while they are learning their letters. Is the proper position beating (which, as Stewart has suggested, we may have evidence to see as widespread institutional violence and possibly rape, one possible relation to the boy's queue or tail)? Or is the proper position the positioning of affection, of allure—a less violent, if no less powerfully marked, kind of conjunction or joining? Do these texts spell out embracing with the tail, or the joining of friends? The question of the introduction to letters is orthopaedic, in the etymological sense of that later term.
Because a Simpathie in loue you vse:
As you are Fellowes both at Schoole and play,
(I hope) I blameless ioyne you partners may. (A5v)
One position is taken on the title page of Hornbyes Hornbook. The master's book is on the table, along with the reminder, even in this apparently affectionate scene, of the disciplinary rod. The schoolmaster holds an apple, thus offering an unexpectedly Edenic, potently rewritten scene of original knowledge acquisition. Teaching a boy the hornbook, which the boy holds in his hand, the schoolmaster positions himself behind and around the boy. Thus aligned in queue, we might say, the boy points out a letter, perhaps marks his Q. Before but following his master, he is introduced into a queer philology.
Hornbyes Hornbook is perhaps a particularly lowbrow version of early modern humanist philology. But with its conflations of tail/tale/alphabet and its title-page resignification of the Eden story—a resignification from hetero-reproductive to same-sexual (pedagogical reproduction), while also deleting women's (condemned, enabling) place in that story—it joins with Tory to show that philology, in its early modern emergences, is already queer. As Tory's text and its significance at the advent of humanism and its transmission into print similarly show, it is not that queer and feminist work come in, after the fact, après la lettre, to superimpose such queerness, even as it may require queer and feminist analysis to identify it as such. At a formative early modern moment in the history of Western knowledge production and technologies of language, the emergence of the standardization of the letter, humanism is fully entangled with (one might say "en-tailed to") the body, its genders, its associations, its sodomitical and affective encounters—entailed as well to what is disavowed in the standardizations of the body/letter. Through the letter as body, the body as letter, queer philology exposes (and is) humanism's fraught relationship to embodiment. Or (and) to reverse this: modern Western embodiment reflects humanism's fraught account of the letter.
Only "perhaps" does the boy in Hornbyes Hornbook mark his Q; closer scrutiny now permitted by digital photography shows that, with only three letters to choose from on his abbreviated hornbook, the boy seems to mark his B. But allow the possibility of two different letters as points of departure to signify the two differing, overlapping, but simultaneous modes of organization in the book that follows.
On the one hand, the book is divided into five sections. This Introduction and Chapter 1 outline the more fluid linguistic situation that obtains in early modern English prior to orthographic standardization, setting the central linguistic context for the analyses that follow; at the same time, these chapters emphasize the implication of philological modes of analysis in discourses of sex/gender, both in the early modern period and in book-historical, philological, and editorial approaches today. Given textual editing's long association with philology and the fact that it is now often credited (or maligned) as a last bastion of philological work, the implications of modern editorial practices and choices recur as a focus throughout the book (see Chapters 1, 4, and 5); the last section of the book ("Editing Philologies") advocates explicitly for a more active engagement of editorial practice with philologies of sex, sexuality, and gender. In between, three sections treat three Lexicons, concentrating on discourses that have become integral to historical analyses of especially male same-sex relations in early modern England, a structure that also serves to emphasize this book's affiliation with and revision of Williams's Key Words and William Empson's Structure of Complex Words, as well as its resonance with the "critical semantics" approach recently articulated in Roland Greene's Five Words. Lexicon 1 elaborates languages of male same-sex friendship. Lexicon 2 focuses on early modern pederasty, or what I call "boy-desire," in order to emphasize that this discourse concerns both early modern culture's attraction toward young men as well as its conception of their own desires, if any, toward others. Lexicon 3 attempts to take the critical discussion of early modern "sodomy" and its linguistic surround in new directions, by considering both the question of the "foundational" body part most closely associated with this "confused category" in the period, and the proliferation of sodomitical discourse as seemingly far afield as the definition of Renaissance dramatic genres. Sodomy also animates the primary editorial examples in the final section, where the analysis takes up its connections to early modern conceptions of race and female riot, respectively, in a set of textual cruxes and glosses in Othello (as contrasted with the editorial treatment of friendship in The Merchant of Venice) and in the text and canonicity of the disputed Shakespearean play Sir Thomas More. This set of five sections is the book's more conventional mode of organization.
On the other hand, one might choose to start with Q (as perhaps you already have) and move through or about this book as one might a dictionary or glossary, encountering chapters organized around a set of key, or at least remarkable, words for thinking about sex/gender in early modern England. This glossary, I probably hardly need write at this point, does not proceed from A to Z: beginning with Q, it proceeds (in a way that cannot only be described as "proceeding") through spell, orthography, skaiography, his, hir, sweet, persuasion, conversation, intercourse, boy, amorous, fundament, foundation, mongrel, tup, top, bumbast. (See the alternative table of contents.) As I have suggested, these "glossary entries"—discursive essays on a glossarial theme—are by no means an attempt to provide a comprehensive account of early modern "sexual" language (nor could they be). As chapters that begin to outline how one might begin to do that, this book has as one of its objectives to encourage, via the exploration of method, the expansion of such glossaries and the knowledges they may generate by other scholars—including, as especially the final section emphasizes, by editors who prepare the early modern texts that others rely on and by those of us (all of us, I argue) who must in effect become editors in order to read early modern sex and gender.
It may be argued that the words I have chosen to concentrate on are not uniformly important or central to early modern culture, but, as the preceding pages have made clear, this book aspires both to a topical contribution to the history of sexuality in early modern Europe—I hope to have convinced you that something so apparently ancillary and unremarkable as the letter Q can and did make a difference—and to a methodological intervention. In that methodological regard, the book seeks to demonstrate—through a number of kinds of examples, sites, discourses, genres, words, and writers—the utility of patiently unraveling the connections of even the most initially unlikely words for understanding this culture, which is to say, for understanding how to continue to read this culture. In the final section of Chapter 4, which focuses on the visual representation of boys in historiated alphabetic initials—the body of a boy, like the body of a Q, in a letter—these examples extend to (or continue to trouble our line between) the textual and visual.
As the appearance of "Shakespeare" in my subtitle will suggest, texts associated with the most canonical of English writers are frequently the site of investigation in this book not because I seek to preserve the exceptional status often assigned to Shakespeare, but because his texts are widely referenced sites of cultural knowledge and consequence for many readers and also are a preeminent site for methodological articulation, expansion, and revolution for early modern philological, textual, bibliographical, editorial, and sex/gender work—from the now-aging New Bibliography through the newer New Textualism, for feminism, sexuality studies, and the new (anti)historicism in queer studies, and beyond. Along the way, a chapter that begins with Twelfth Night illustrates how the career of "the" cross-dressed boy character/heroine/actor changes in the seventeenth century if, turning away from Shakespeare, we instead examine the long career of the boy-woman at the center of Beaumont and Fletcher's popular Philaster and read "the boy" onstage in relation to "boy alphabets" in early modern printed books. Christopher Marlowe's texts, too, are particularly prominent here, not for some peculiar status I would afford Marlowe (somehow alongside Shakespeare, but above texts written by any other number of other writers one might name), but rather for the methodological traction they provide both for analyzing early modern discourses of sex/gender and for thinking about early modern sexual "identity." How can a queer reading practice, a queer philology, add to our comprehension of a writer once presumed to be "gay" (in a more or less modern sense), but recently the subject of a critical "straightening out" project (Chapters 3 and 5)? To what extent do Marlowe's contemporaries' revisions and continuations of his texts exemplify queer affiliation or even (proto-) "gay shame"—in a way that extends the ambit of queerness beyond writerly identities, as the discussion of the unlikely figure of George Chapman in Chapter 5 suggests? Even as I believe the approach I take here is attentive to particular local exigencies, I hope that readers may see, through a queer-philological approach, a mode other than author(ship)-based approaches for considering texts generated by these writers and, by extension (extensions that may, of course, require their own local adjustments, their own queer philologies), those of others.
Because the book is methodological in its aspirations, the chapters, in ways that exceed my reference to them above, engage with some of the flashpoints and nodes of controversy in early modern literary and cultural criticism, including the following: authorship and attribution (Chapter 3); the ideological investments and effects (intentional or not) of New Bibliography (as in Chapter 1's discussion of compositor analysis and Cold War homophobia), which is the basis for the editing of most modern editions of Shakespeare and the other early modern texts we read, study, and teach; the stakes (for gender and sexuality) of the editorial distinction between "good" and "bad" quartos (the discussion of Philaster in Chapter 4); the "sexuality" of particular characters and writers (Hamlet in Chapter 2; Marlowe in Chapters 3 and 5); the meaning(s) of early modern pederasty in relation to classical and modern "homosexuality" (Chapters 4 and 5); the definition of literary genres (if not exactly a flashpoint, certainly an underquestioned foundation on which many of us teach, write, and organize curricula and hiring within Renaissance studies and literature departments; Chapter 7); the relation of editorial practice to interpretation and the (artificial?) division between textual emendation and glossing (Chapters 8-9); and the intersectionality of sexuality, gender, and race (Chapters 8-9 again). Although the book's analysis of sexuality largely focuses on men, there are a number of places throughout, and especially in particular readings in Chapters 1, 4, 6, 8, and 9, that take up the sometimes contested relation of feminist and queer readings (which are sometimes also readings of women) in early modern texts and criticism. This list represents, you will have noticed, a third hand with which to open or read this book.
At the same time, I hope that Queer Philologies will present a methodological intervention of relevance to scholars and theorists of sexuality and gender interested in other periods and locales of history, language, literature, and culture, including of our own moment, and in queer historiography generally. The book's emphases on the alterities of early modern "sexuality," sexual practices, body parts, "identities," eroticism, affect, and so on, should help further to defamiliarize what we now think we know about sexuality and sexualities in the present, "render[ing] less destructively presumable 'homosexuality as we know it today,'" as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick formatively argued—heterosexuality, too, we can add. (Critics and theorists especially interested in the present may find Chapter 3's trajectory from conversation to intercourse and on toward fuck buddy one generative place to begin.) At the same time, this book's emphasis on the textures of alterity will help demonstrate, I believe, that what has been called the "tyranny of historicism" in early modern sexuality studies misapprehends the nature of at least some sexual history projects, like this one, that travel under historicism's large and varied label. Readers of the alterity/continuity debate in queer historiography will already have recognized that this is not an "unhistoricist" book, to use the revisionary term introduced by Goldberg and Madhavi Menon and elaborated by Menon; nor does it see all historicisms—whether old, "New," newer, or other—as necessarily undermined by a "compulsory heterotemporality" in which historical difference becomes elided with or collapsed into other irredeemably "hetero" normativities. Throughout this book, my questions will often be: why and how is historical alterity also potentially queer—though not necessarily always so? What queerness can be mobilized and deployed by and through—not despite—recognizing and analyzing alterity? As Goldberg's formative anthology of essays demonstrated (but did not exhaust) two decades ago, there is more than one way to queer a Renaissance.
Emphasizing the textures of alterity means, on the one hand, that this book embraces the simultaneous, overlapping, and sometimes mutually excluding models that Sedgwick theorized and that historian-theorists of premodern sexuality who disagree on other aspects of queer historiography have nevertheless embraced: Smith's multiple "myths"; Halperin's multiple "discourses, practices, categories, patterns, or models"; Traub's "cycles of salience" as well as her co-extant and eventually mutually inflecting tribades and femmes as they intersect as well with "domestic heterosexuality" and with something both like and unlike modern lesbianism; Goldberg and Menon's "multiplicity of the past" leading "to the possibilities of different futures"; DiGangi's plural "sexual types." Even in Foucault's "utterly confused category" of sodomy, the very etymology of the adjective (in both the original French and the English translation's Anglo-Norman cognate) may transport into an apparently singular "category" a resonant plurality of things con/founded, poured or mixed together: "cette catégorie si confuse." On another hand (a hand confounded with the first), textures may indicate both the uneven surface(s) we are analyzing—a past that cannot itself be understood to be fully "self-identical" or singular, as Goldberg and Menon emphasize—and the tactile interpretive interaction of the visiting philologist. My queer philologies will emphasize that this past is (these pasts are) discursively woven textures discernibly different in weave from the similarly non-self-identical textures of the present—to which this plural past is connected by some but not all of its threads, only some of which are currently perceptible or (to continue the language of seeing or making by hand) manifest. (There will be numerous examples of troubled continuity throughout this book, but Q, conversation, and friend—each an early modern term that is still, now, in some version of overlappingly same-different use—may serve to illustrate.) This is a problem of historical-textual method that Goldberg suggestively addressed earlier: "The logic of textuality that is the logic of historicity means also that the virtually unbounded possibilities of difference are relatively bound within any textual/historic instance."
Researched, written, and revised over the course of much of the continuism versus alteritism debates in queer historiography (debates that, as Traub's recent, thoroughgoing critique and its varied responses suggest, seem likely to continue), Queer Philologies does not, then, see a need to read "unhistorically," as Menon advocates, or for a new "unhistoricism." As my resistance to the OED's only apparently precise datings of initial and changing meanings will suggest throughout this book, for example, my historicism is not interchangeable with a historicism defined by dates of literary composition, publication, or the ostensible first "invention" of particular semantic meanings—though I will sometimes refer to them. Rather, this book seeks to practice a more labile, deconstructive history of sexuality and sexual meaning—a history that is (unabashedly but, I hope, critically) a new and renewing "historicism" in its attempt to focus on the methods of its own historiography (a queer philology), and a historicism attentive to alterity and continuity, while also alert to the multiple and sometimes contradictory possibilities circulating in the synchronic moment, as traced through that moment's language. Etymology, as I have just hinted via Foucault's confuse and as I argue in the analysis of the words sweet and persuasion in Chapter 2, can be precisely such a tool, analyzing as it does the persistence(s) of the past into the multiplicity of possible meanings in the present or in the less remote past. Etymologies—shorn, I advocate in Chapter 2, of any guarantee of definitive, determinative, singular origin—can function, in this sense, as Elizabeth Freeman's "[q]ueer temporalities": "points of resistance to this temporal order [of "history 'proper'"] that, in turn, propose other possibilities for living in relation to indeterminately past, present, and future others: that is, of living historically." To redeploy another of Freeman's resonant terms, etymologies can point out to us the "temporal drag" that language is: the present written and spoken in—bound and enabled by—the textured, sometimes out/landish garb or costume of its pasts.
Such an attempt at a textured, plural, cultural history through language will call forth both deliberation and playfulness, qualities I have attempted to enact in the sometimes atypical formats of this Introduction and the following chapters, which seek to resist the expectation and plod of standard academic forms. I hope at least some of those assays provide pleasure and introduce/seduce readers into philology as a lovable method that may move beyond the adjective "narrow" routinely assigned it. ("[A] corresponding 'wide philologist,'" Frank remarks, "does not exist.") My attempts in this regard are not separable from the concerns of history and alterity discussed above; as Roland Barthes (licenced philologist) writes, remarking on the productivity of the "historical meaning of a word" even as he explicitly points beyond "the narrow acceptation of philology," "sometimes, on the contrary, history serves to revivify a word and then we must rediscover this historical meaning as an enjoyable, not authoritarian element, witness of a truth, but free, plural, consumed in the very pleasure of a fiction (that of our reading)." In part it is through the revivifying pleasures of reading and writing that Queer Philologies will attempt to re-mark historicism's alleged "tyranny" with plurality.
At least one philologist trained at the height of Germanic philology's traditional methods also emphasized a method that would move deliberately, enticingly, open-endedly. Reflecting on his chosen specialty, Nietzsche's words, at the end of the 1886 preface to Daybreak, resonate uncannily with our own hurried time, with its emphasis on tweetable arguments and definitive, scientized proofs and outcomes. "It is not for nothing that I have been a philologist," he writes:
[P]hilology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow. . . . But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of "work," that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to "get everything done" at once, including every old or new book:—this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers.If there is a queerness, a slight gender nonnormativity, to be heard in a male scholar's embrace of a method that requires "delicate" fingers and eyes (zarten Fingern und Augen), temporal drag in both senses, I also hope that this book beginning with Q will allow scholars, students, and readers of the past and present alike to go aside, to experience the reservations and pluralities that are a part of its evidence, the doors left open, the entirely erroneous guess that leads to knowledge before and aft, the tail or queue that introduces us beyond the square.