Alan Bray's Homosexuality in Renaissance England is a milestone work, one of those rare books that can be said to have virtually milestone work, one of those rare books that can be said to have virtually inaugurated a field of study--and one which remains a standard, comprehensive introduction to the subject. Since it was first published in England in 1982, however, it has been difficult to find in America.
Examining the image of the sodomite in sixteenth- and seventeenth- century literature and polemic, Bray demonstrates how widely that image differed from the everyday occurrences of male homosexual behavior in ordinary households and schools.
Homosexuality in Renaissance England explores how men who engaged in sodomy reconciled this behavior with their society's violent loathing for the sodomite, and shows how a social more that had remained stable for centuries changed dramatically toward the end of the seventeenth century.
Widely considered the best study of its kind Homosexuality in Renaissance England clearly shows why the modern image of "the homosexual" cannot be applied to the early modern period, when homosexual behavior was viewed in terms of the sexual act and not an individual's broader identity.
Bray's classic work goes on to show how the early eighteenth century saw the earliest emergence of a "homosexual identity." Finally available to a broad general audience in America, Homosexuality in Renaissance England is a must-read for anyone interested in sexuality during the early modern period. [via]