James M. Bromley, 2014-2015 Solmsen Fellow
This book examines ‘queer style’ or forms of masculinity grounded in superficiality, inauthenticity, affectation, and the display of the extravagantly clothed body in early modern English city comedies. Queer style destabilizes distinctions between able-bodied and disabled, human and nonhuman, and the past and the present—distinctions that have structured normative ways of thinking about sexuality. Glimpsing the worldmaking potential of queer style, plays by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, Thomas Middleton, and Thomas Dekker imagine alternatives to the prevailing modes of subjectivity, sociability, and eroticism in early modern London. While the characters associated with queer style are situated in a hostile generic and historical context, this book draws on recent work on disability, materiality, and queer temporality to rethink their relationship to those contexts so as to access the utopian possibilities of early modern queer style. These theoretical frameworks also help bring into relief how the attachments and pleasures of early modern sartorial extravagance can estrange us from the epistemologies of sexuality that narrow current thinking about sexuality and its relationship to authenticity, pedagogy, interiority, and privacy.