Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature : Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations book cover
1st Edition

Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature
Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations

ISBN 9780367210472
Published January 17, 2019 by Routledge
196 Pages

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Book Description

This volume examines and theorizes the oft-ignored phenomenon of male-to-female (MTF) crossdressing in early modern drama, prose, and poetry, inviting MTF crossdressing episodes to take a fuller place alongside instances of female-to-male crossdressing and boy actors’ crossdressing, which have long held the spotlight in early modern gender studies. The author argues that MTF crossdressing episodes are especially rich sources for socially-oriented readings of queer gender—that crossdressers’ genders are constructed and represented in relation to romantic partners, communities, and broader social structures like marriage, economy, and sexuality. Further, she argues that these relational representations show that the crossdresser and his/her allies often benefit financially, socially, and erotically from his/her queer gender presentation, a corrective to the dominant idea that queer gender has always been associated with shame, containment, and correction. By attending to these relational and beneficial representations of MTF crossdressers in early modern literature, the volume helps to make a larger space for queer, genderqueer, male-bodied and queer-feminine representations in our conversations about early modern gender and sexuality.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Passing Relations

1. Doublecrossdressing Encounters: Haec Vir and Hic Mulier, The Faerie Queene, May Day, and "Robin Hood and the Bishop"

2. Crossdressed Brides and the Marriage Market: A Mad World, My Master, Epicoene, and "Phylotus and Emelia"

3. Crossdressing and Queer Heterosexuality: Arcadia, Urania, Isle of the Gulls, and "Sport Upon Sport"

4. Crossdressing, Sex, and Gender Labor: Convent of Pleasure, Gallathea, and "The Male and Female Husband"


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Simone Chess is an Assistant Professor of English and an affiliate of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her research interests are in Early Modern literary and cultural studies, queer studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She has published articles and book chapters on the topics of crossdressing, bathroom activism, ballads, and blindness.


Not just an important contribution to early modern and trans studies, but an essential work of transfeminist scholarship.

Kadin Henningsen - Trans Studies Quarterly

The scope of this monograph is ambitious [and] would be of interest to a wide audience not only for those working on early modern literature but also to any working on gender and sexuality across historical periods and geographic boundaries.

Vanessa Wright, University of Leeds