||Abstract: This dissertation explores intricate networks and connections between early
modern English and Ottoman cultures. In particular, it traces connected sexual histories
and cultures between the two contexts with a focus on the abduction, conversion, and
circulation of boys in cross-cultural encounters during the sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries. It argues that the textual, aesthetic template of the beautiful abducted
boy - i.e. Ganymede, the Indian boy of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the
Christian boy in Ottoman poetry - intersects with the historical figure of vulnerable
youths, who were captured, converted, and exchanged within the global traffic in bodies.
It documents the aesthetic, erotic, and historical deployments of this image to suggest
that the circulation of these boys casts them as subjects of servitude and conversion,
as well as objects of homoerotic desire in the cultural imaginary.
The project thereby uncovers the tensions and dissonances between the aestheticized
eroticism of cultural representations and the coercive and violent history of abductions,
conversions, and enslavements of the boys. Traveling Sexualities also highlights the
significance of the Ottomans to the project of queering the Renaissance in early modern
studies. It uncovers connected histories between seemingly different spaces and cultures
with discursive and material crossings, cross-cultural transferences, movements, interactions,
and encounters with a focus on
the figure of the boy through queer-historicist contrapuntal readings of multiple
genres (English plays, poems, travelogues, chronicles, maps, and paintings; Ottoman
poems, historical chronicles, prose works, festival accounts, miniatures) from mid-fifteenth
to early seventeenth centuries. Ultimately, the project enriches our understanding
of the global Renaissance by disrupting binaries (self/other, Islam/Christian, European/Ottoman),
thereby provoking a reimagination of what the East and the West signify, as the lines
between the two worlds are blurred and rendered permeable. Looking afresh at early
modern sexualities through a global perspective, it offers additional queer and postcolonial
methodologies for a historicist contrapuntal analysis. The transcultural and the queer
converge through the figure of the boy as
he circulates within the aesthetic, commercial, and erotic economies shaping Anglo-Ottoman
interactions, which in turn highlights a Renaissance without fixed cultural borders.
This, therefore, brings to our attention a queerer Renaissance that provides us with
valuable insights into our contemporary problems regarding sexuality, gender, race,
Islamophobia, orientalism, and cultural imperialism.