The Color of Monogamy in Shakespeare's Sonnets

Lecture | October 25 | 5-7 p.m. | Wheeler Hall, Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler

 Melissa Sanchez, Department of English, Univ. of Pennsylvania

 Department of English

Shakespeare’s Sonnets register the development of a fiction of somatic, heritable whiteness as a correlate of respectable sexuality, one disseminated in Renaissance celebrations of classical male friendship and imperial allegories of sexual conquest. Yet in their depiction of the entanglements among the poetic speaker, a “fair” young man, a “black” mistress, and unnamed others, the Sonnets conspicuously fail to cordon off rational love from humiliating appetite. Instead, these poems explore the secular implications of a Pauline soteriology based on what Shakespeare calls “lascivious grace”—a theology that resists the idealization of monogamy that has historically helped sustain intersecting gendered and racial hierarchies.

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