Love's Wounds takes an in-depth look at the widespread language of violence and abjection in early modern European love poetry. Beginning in fourteenth-century Italy, this book shows how Petrarch established a pattern of inequality between suffering poet and exalted Beloved rooted in political parrhēsia. Sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century French and English poets reshaped his model into an idiom of extravagant brutality coded to their own historical circumstances. Cynthia N. Nazarian argues that these poets exaggerated the posture of the downtrodden lover, adapting the rhetoric of powerless desire to forge a new "countersovereignty" from within the heart of vulnerability―a potentially revolutionary position through which to challenge cultural, religious, and political authority. Creating a secular equivalent to the martyr, early modern sonneteers crafted a voice that was both critical and unstoppable because it suffered.
Love’s Wounds tracks the development of the countersovereign voice from Francesco Petrarca to Maurice Scève, Joachim du Bellay, Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare. Through interdisciplinary and transnational analyses, Nazarian reads early modern sonnets as sites of contestation and collaboration and rewrites the relationship between early modern literary forms.
“The Outlaw Knight: Law’s Violence in The Faerie Queene, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Dark Knight Rises.” Cultural Critique 98 (Winter 2018) 204-233.
“Montaigne Against Sympathy: On Affect and Ethics inthe Essais.” Montaigne Studies 30 (March 2018): 125-138.
“Actaeon Ego Sum: Ovidian Dismemberment and Lyric Voice in Petrarch and Maurice Scève.” In Metamorphosis: The Changing Face of Ovid in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by Alison M. Keith and Stephen Rupp, 199-222. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2007.
“Jane Kingsley-Smith. Cupid in Early Modern Literature and Culture.” Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 33, no.4 (Fall 2011): 155-158.
“Julia L. Hairston and Walter Stephens, eds. The Body in Early Modern Italy.” Renaissance Quarterly 63, no.4 (Winter 2010): 1355-1356.
Works in Progress
Violent Sympathies: Literature, Sovereignty and the Hazards of Fellow Feeling.
My second book project, Violent Sympathies: Literature, Sovereignty and the Hazards of Fellow Feeling, takes an interdisciplinary, cross-temporal approach to an enduring problem: the political challenge posed by sympathy. It investigates the ways that sympathy counter-intuitively enables force when shifted from victims onto perpetrators or institutions. This book bridges early modern literature and contemporary political theory, and argues that fellow feeling has long posed an important political problem, one that channels broader concerns regarding national identity, elite privilege, personal sovereignty and the state’s monopoly over violence and law-making. Those who universalize or lament violence overlook the ways in which it has often been marshaled on behalf of sympathetic victims. Violent Sympathies addresses this problem by excavating a neglected history of sympathy’s politics. Through chapters on Torquato Tasso, François Rabelais, Michel de Montaigne, Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare, I suggest that the literature on violence and rule emerging from the dawn of modern statehood provides especially rich material for comparative study with modern politics. Although early modernists have brought insights from modern critical and political theory to bear on sixteenth-century texts, rarely has the traffic of ideas flowed in the opposite direction. By bringing the early modern period into contact with the present to address enduring questions of force and affect, Violent Sympathies explores unexpected challenges that pathos poses to politics, then as now.