Tough Love

Amazon Encounters in the English Renaissance

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: December 2000

Author: Kathryn Schwarz

Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies

In Tough Love Kathryn Schwarz takes up a range of literary, historical, and theoretical texts in order to examine the relationship between Amazon myth and the social conventions that governed gender and sexuality during the early modern period. Imagined as embodiments of female masculinity, amazonian figures stimulated both homoerotic and heteroerotic response, and Schwarz shows that their appearance in narratives disrupted assumptions concerning identity, gender, domesticity, and desire.
Despite seeming to function as signs for what is outside the social—the alien, the exotic, the other—Amazons in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts were often represented in conventionally domestic roles, as mothers and lovers, wives and queens, Schwarz demonstrates. She traces this pattern in works by Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney, Raleigh, and Jonson, as well as in such materials as conduct manuals, explorers’ accounts, court spectacles, and political tracts. Through readings of these texts, Schwarz shows that the Amazon myth provided a language both for setting forth and for challenging the terms of social logic. In representations of Amazon encounters, she argues, homosocial bonds became indistinguishable from heterosexual desires, masculine agency attached itself as logically to women as it did to men, and sexual difference was made nearly impossible to sustain or define. Schwarz’s analysis unveils the Amazon as a theoretical term, one that illuminates the tensions and paradoxes through which ideologies of the domestic take shape.
Tough Love contributes to the ongoing discussion of gendered identity and sexual desire in the early modern period. It will interest students of queer theory, cultural studies, early modern history, feminism, and literature.


Tough Love is a skillfully crafted and inventive example of current critical practice, with a strong theoretical framework, adroit integration of contemporary writing and a broad range of early modern texts, and discerning readings of the Amazonian canon from Knox to Plutarch. . . . Tough Love provides a buoyant addition to the scholarship on Amazons and a felicitous contribution to an understanding of the reproduction of female eroticism in the Renaissance.” — Skiles Howard, Shakespeare Quarterly

“[A] tightly argued, impressively researched, strongly feminist reading of the subject and works she explores.” — William C. Johnson , Sixteenth Century Journal

“[A] useful survey and analysis of how the Amazon myth functions as an uncanny, mirrorlike ‘double vision’ of early modern identity, gender, and society. . . . Recommended. . . .” — A. DiMatteo , Choice

“Her work will doubtless find an appreciative audience, which will be grateful for her careful analysis of a significant topic. . . . [A] thought-provoking overview. . . . [I]nteresting. . . . [I]lluminating.” — Journal of English and Germanic Philology

“In Tough Love, Kathryn Schwarz offers a sophisticated, theoretically-informed analysis of the early modern English construction of the Amazon. . . .“ — Mary Villeponteaux , Spenser Review

“The story of the warrior women is one of the smaller keys on the chateleine necessary to unlock Renaissance discussions of gender roles and personal identity. It is found importantly in Spenser and Sidney, Shakespeare and Jonson, and elsewhere. This book will make it essential for some long-held and inaccurate beliefs about relations between the sexes, masculinity, misogyny, sexual desire and sexual stereotyping to be seriously revised. It is calmly, clearly, and compellingly argued.” — Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

“If you are content with received views of female constriction under early modern patriarchy, don't read this book! Through the figure of the Amazon, Kathryn Schwarz offers a dazzling, ground-breaking reinterpretation of major canonical authors—Raleigh, Shakespeare, Jonson, Spenser, Sidney—that is also a celebration of the power and agency of women.” — Leah Marcus, author of Unediting the Renaissance : Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton

“Schwarz’s approach is sophisticated and wide-reaching, as she thinks through the nuanced way in which a single reference or metaphor mediates issues of sexuality/desire, on the one hand, and community formation on the other.” — Wendy Wall, author of The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Gender in the English Renaissance


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kathryn Schwarz is Assistant Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

Table of Contents Back to Top



Part One
Abroad at Home: The Question of Queens

Chapter One
Falling off the Endge of the WOrld: Ralegh among the Amazons

Chapter Two
Fearful Simile; Stealing the Breech in Shakespeare's Chronicle Plays

Chapter Three
Stranger in the Mirror: Amazon Reflections in the Jacobean Queen's Masque

Part Two
Splitting the Difference: Homoeroticism and Home Life

Chapter Four
Dressed to Kill: Looking for Love in the Faerie Queene

Chapter Five
The Probably Impossible: Inventing Lesbians in Arcadia

Chapter Six
Tragical Mirth: Framing Shakespeare's Hippolyta

Epilogue: Via the Two Noble Kinsmen



Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, Bainton Book Prize for Literature, Sixteenth Century Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2599-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2602-1
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