Wanton Words: Rhetoric and Sexuality in English Renaissance Drama
In Wanton Words, Madhavi Menon intimately and expertly couples classical and Renaissance handbooks of rhetoric with canonical Renaissance plays and demonstrates their shared propensity to speak about sex - often transgressive sex - in the same instance that they speak about the workings of language.
While other studies of rhetoric have confined their analyses to local questions of interpretive interest, Menon introduces rhetoric into the largely medico-juridical realm of studies on Renaissance sexuality. In doing so, she suggests that rhetoric allows us to think through the erotics of language in ways that pay most attention to the frisson of English Renaissance drama. Sustained deconstructive parsings of tropes - metaphor, metonymy, allegory, catechresis, and more - enables their wantonness to emerge in subjects usually considered unrelated to rhetoric: race in Othello, colonialism in The Tempest, tragedy in Romeo and Juliet, and cowardice in The Roaring Girl.