Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


My book, Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern Literature (OUP, 2008) analyses literary representations of lovesickness in relation to medical ideas about desire and poses wider questions about gender and identity; it explores the different ways that desire is believed to take root in the body, how gender roles are encoded and contested in courtship, and the psychic pains and pleasures of frustrated passion. Focusing on writers such as Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Ford, and Davenant, the book considers the relationship between women's lovesickness and other female maladies (such as hysteria and green sickness), arguing that female lovesickness is a species of melancholy which can be depicted not only as a passionate illness which degenerates into madness, but also as a spiritual and cerebral affliction. It also examines the ways in which Neoplatonism offers an alternative construction of love to that found in natural philosophy, inverting much of the medical advice for what was held to be healthy in romantic love, and reveals how anxieties concerning love's ability to emasculate the male lover emerge indirectly in remedies for lovesickness (such as bloodletting, sexual intercourse, performative healing and humiliation).
Translated title of the contributionLovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature, 1580-1645
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9780199266128
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • lovesickness
  • Melancholy
  • Green sickness
  • hysteria
  • Neoplatonism
  • medical history
  • history of the emotions
  • history of psychology
  • Shakespeare, William
  • Hamlet
  • Ophelia
  • John Ford
  • Beaumont and Fletcher
  • Menstruation
  • early modern litearture
  • early modern drama
  • early modern psychology


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