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Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)  
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This "corrected" version of Michelangelo's manuscripts was the standard text until the unexpurgated versions of the poetic canon began to appear in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Several important editions have appeared since World War II, improving scholarly comprehension of textual issues and making Michelangelo's literary efforts available to a broader audience. The relatively recent edition by James Saslow prints the Italian texts along with literal English translations that are helpful to students whose Italian is in need of assistance.


With the rise of lesbian and gay studies in the 1980s and l990s, it seems certain that Michelangelo's poetic canon will continue to provoke interest and remain a point of contention for debates about how the self was sexually constructed in Renaissance discourse.

If a gay male author is defined loosely as someone whose erotic drives and fantasies are directed principally toward members of his own sex, then Michelangelo should be deemed an appropriate figure to be understood as participating in the evolution of the gay literary tradition. The poems--perhaps our most meaningful evidence for Michelangelo's construction of sexual selfhood--teem with homoerotic dynamism and an attendant ethic of sublimation.

Although Michelangelo wrote in a variety of verse forms and literary modes, the sonnets that address appealing male beloveds are, at their best, his most intriguing contribution to the literary history of same-sex desire. The poet's lack of formal education and training in classical languages did not impede his ability to write verse that surpassed that of many of his more learned contemporaries.

Innovative, obscure, elliptical, at times metrically and ideologically unorthodox--Michelangelo's poetic legacy deserves the full attention of the academy. Indeed, not until Shakespeare would another sonneteer represent same-sex desire with such sensuous complexity, emotional resonance, and linguistic artfulness.

Stedman Mays

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literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

literature >> Overview:  Italian Literature

Until quite recently, male homosexuality has had a discontinuous, fragmented, and largely condemnatory history in Italian literature, and lesbianism has been almost totally ignored.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Ganymede

Since antiquity Ganymede, the beautiful Phrygian youth abducted by Jupiter, has served as an artistic expression for homosexuality.

literature >> Dante Alighieri

In the Divine Comedy Dante treats male homosexuality first as violence against God and then more sympathetically as merely one of the kinds of love.

arts >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

The most famous artist who ever lived, Michelangelo left an enormous legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, architecture, and poetry; while the artist's sexual behavior cannot be documented, the homoerotic character of his drawings, letters, and poetry is unmistakable.

literature >> Symonds, John Addington

John Addington Symonds was the most daring innovator in the history of nineteenth-century British homosexual writing and consciousness.


Barkan, Leonard. Transuming Passion: Ganymede and the Erotics of Humanism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Barricelli, Jean-Pierre. "Michelangelo's Finito: In the Self, the Later Sonnets, and the Last Pieta." New Literary History 24 (1993): 597-616.

Buonarroti, Michelangelo. Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo. Trans. Creighton Gilbert. Robert N. Linscott, ed. 3d ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.

_____. Michelangelo Buonarroti: Rime. Enzo Noe Girardi, ed. Bari: Laterza, 1960.

_____. The Poetry of Michelangelo. Trans. James Saslow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

_____, and Tommaso Campanella. The Sonnets of Michael Angelo Buonarroti and Tommaso Campanella. Trans. John Addington Symonds. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1878. Rev. ed. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902.

Cambon, Glauco. Michelangelo's Poetry: Fury of Form. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Clements, Robert J. The Poetry of Michelangelo. New York: New York University Press, 1965.

Dall'Orto, Giovanni. "'Socratic Love' as a Disguise for Same-sex Love in the Italian Renaissance." The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe. Kent Gerard and Gert Hekma, eds. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1989. 33-65.

Hibbard, Howard. Michelangelo. 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.

Liebert, Robert S. Michelangelo: A Psychoanalytic Study of His Life and Images. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983.

Pater, Walter. "The Poetry of Michelangelo." The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. Adam Phillips, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986. 47-62.

Kennedy, William J. "Petrarchan Authority and Gender Revisions in Michelangelo's Rime." Interpreting the Italian Renaissance: Literary Perspectives. Antonio Toscano, ed. Stony Brook, N.Y.: Filibrary, 1991. 55-66.

Saslow, James M. Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986.

_____. "'A Veil of Ice between My Heart and the Fire': Michelangelo's Sexual Identity and Early Modern Constructs of Homosexuality." Genders 2 (1988): 77-90.

Summers, David. Michelangelo and the Language of Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mays, Stedman  
    Entry Title: Michelangelo Buonarroti  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 12, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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