Friendship’s Loss: Alan Bray’s Making of History

  • Valerie Traub


In the headnote that precedes his essay, ‘The Body of the Friend’, Alan Bray describes the painful occasion that gave impetus to his work:

In 1987 I heard Michel Rey, a student of J.-L. Flandrin in the University of Paris, give a lecture entitled ‘The Body of My Friend’. The lecture was only an outline, and his early death left his doctoral thesis uncompleted and his loss keenly felt by many. But in the years that followed that lecture Michel and I often discussed the history of friendship, and I have sought in this paper to complete that paper as he might have done had he lived, as a tribute to his memory. It is a paper about the body of the friend at the onset of the modern world and its loss.1

In a position not unlike that of Bray, I — along with you — now confront the loss of a scholar who has done more, perhaps, than any other to return the body of the friend, and with it the complex meanings of intimacy, to historical consciousness. Although it did not fall to me to complete the monumental piece of scholarship that is The Friend, the manuscript Alan was finishing at the time of his death, it does fall to me to try to do justice to a scholarly legacy that has had a singular, indispensable, and galvanizing effect on the history of sexuality, and that will, in its now complete form, transform the histories of friendship and the family.2


Female Friendship Male Friendship Queer Theory Male Homoeroticism Swear Brotherhood 
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  1. 1.
    A. Bray and M. Rey, ‘The Body of the Friend: Continuity and Change in Masculine Friendship in the Seventeenth Century’, in T. Hitchcock and M. Cohen (eds), English Masculinities 1660–1800 (London and New York: Longman, 1999), pp. 65–84, on p. 65.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See A. Bray, The Friend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). I cannot claim for myself the status of Alan’s friend; although we had corresponded about each other’s work, we did not meet until the year before his death. It was only after we had met, when he revealed to me that he would be reading the manuscript of my book The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England for Cambridge University Press and suggested that we might dispense with the protocol of confidentiality in order to further our conversation, that we became regular correspondents. Portions of this essay were communicated to him in my response to the book manuscript that he shared with me the summer before his death.Google Scholar
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© Valerie Traub 2005

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  • Valerie Traub

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