Exploring ‘Zelmaneship’: Developing Queer Inwardness from Sidney to Stage
University of Kansas
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Zelmane the Amazon, a central character in Philip Sidney’s epic romance The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590), has often been studied for her transgressive gender and sexuality. Zelmane’s first words in the New Arcadia direct readers to look within, “Transform’d in show, but more transform’d in mind” (Sidney 131). I argue that this substantial transformation is what Katherine Eisaman Maus calls “inwardness,” a word drawn from Sidney’s “In Defense of Poesy” in Inwardness and Theatre in the English Renaissance (1995). In “In Defense of Posey,” he writes how characters can exhibit both an “inward self, and ... [an] outward government” (50). Zelmane, conceptualized only as a disguise, would be the outward show of Pyrocles; Sidney, however, writes the Amazon with an inward self and individuates her from the Prince. Sidney writes Zelmane with independent pronouns, differentiated thoughts, and the ability to resist transforming back into Pyrocles. Because Zelmane’s demonstrated inwardness both separates her from Pyrocles and represents a shift across genders, Zelmane’s inwardness is queer. Dramatic interpretations of Sidney’s Arcadia, however, do not exhibit this same inwardness. John Day’s Isle of Gulls (1606) and James Shirley’s A Pastoral Called the Arcadia (1640) reduce Zelmane’s inwardness and portray her only as a cross-dressed disguise. Sidney’s Zelmane, as a distinct central character to a widely popular early modern text, reveals a possibility for queer inwardness unexamined by recent scholarship.
- English Dissertations and Theses 
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