Baroque Flair: Seventeenth-century European Sapphic Poetry


  • Amanda Powell University of Oregon



Early modern women poets across Europe and at least one colony enlisted Petrarchist terms, often with a self-aware, parodic twist. Some examples, considered here, include (first) self-portrait poems that serve to critique not only the lyric speaker/portrait subject’s imperfect face or physique, but the very phenomenon of Petrarchist lyric objectifications of female love objects, and (second) love poems addressed by women to other women. By applying a theoretical grounding that combines feminist, lesbian, and queering approaches, we can bring to these poems a reading that is alert to moments when they reproduce, or rework, the kinds of gendered discourse and heteronormative paradigms that we find in better-known male-authored poems. The essay concludes with a survey of the kinds of cultural work performed by these texts in their ideological, religious, political, and poetic contexts. As cultural premises changed, the poems moved from widespread presence into illegibility or erasure from literary historiography.


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