THE IDEA FOR THIS BOOK OF ESSAYS BEGAN WITH A CONFERENCE held at King Alfred's College, Winchester in September 1997, entitled "Passing: Assumed Identities in Literature, Art and Film." The intention of the conference was to offer a forum for debate about the cultural significance of cross-identification in all its forms—sexual, racial, and class-based—from the early modern period right up to the present day. I am indebted to Amanda Boulter and Natalie McGrath who helped me with the organization of it, and to Roger Lowman who encouraged us to go ahead with the project.
The collection is of a much narrower focus that its parent conference, even though, as will become clear, it is separated into two sections. I would hope therefore, that it will be read not only as a series of examples of early modern cross-dressing, literary or otherwise, but also, in the spirit of the original conference, as a glimpse at a general theory of "passing."