Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version



Published in English Literary Renaissance 30:3 (2000), pp. 396-407. Copyright © 2000 English Literary Renaissance Inc. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Used by permission.


My analysis of Love’s Cure follows Jonathan Dollimore’s distinction between two kinds of transgression to be found in literary artifacts: “humanist transgression” and “transgressive reinscription.” The goal of humanist transgression is to escape or transcend the social/ideological construct it opposes. It anticipates Romantic and idealistic notions of freedom and subjectivity. Modern critics often tend to view humanist transgression as the only “real” transgression; Dollimore cites as an example of this view Linda Woodbridge’s disappointment with the seemingly proto-feminist rhetoric of the Hic Mulier figure. In Woodbridge’s view, Hic Mulier’s assertion of gender equality is undermined by the fact that she makes the assertion while dressed as a man. Unwilling to reject Hic Mulier as quickly, Dollimore argues for a valorization of “transgressive reinscription,” in which transgression takes the form of inverting or reversing ideological categories. Instead of striving for “transcendence,” this kind of transgression uses irony and parody to destabilize supposedly “natural” categories. Thus critics who look for humanist transgression in the gender wars of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries tend to focus on the image of the androgyne or hermaphrodite, while critics who look for transgressive reinscription tend to give more attention to the transvestite.

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