EVE KOSOFSKY SEDGWICK

ARCHIVE / WRITING / BOOKS AUTHORED RELATED - BOOKS
EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE CLOSET (1990)
(BERKELEY: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 1990. CLOTH AND PAPER. 9780520254060. )

What is at stake in male homo/heterosexual definition? At a time when the politics of homosexuality are more contested with every day’s news, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues that the vexed imperatives to specify straight and gay identities have become central to every important form of knowledge of the twentieth century.

Grounded in gay theory and politics and offering new paradigms for them, Sedgwick’s book explores the consequences for our culture of an epochal shift in turn-of-the-century Euro-American discourse: the moment when each person, in addition to having a gender based on a male/female dichotomy, also came to have a sexuality based on the particular dichotomy homo/hetero. Through readings of Melville, Nietzsche, Wilde, James, and Proust, Sedgwick shows how questions of sexual definition are at the heart of every form of representation in this century. She makes the case that, to the degree that work in any modern discipline of thought fails to perform a specifically antihomophobic analysis, the work will be flawed not contingently but centrally. And she offers an ambitious range of examples and techniques for pursuing the antihomophobic project in newly imaginative, assertive, and trenchant ways throughout contemporary culture. –From the jacket copy

Epistemology is a profound study on how we live our life in culture, and how our actions, identities, and ethics are symptomatic effects of various networks of power at work in society.” –The Feminist Review

“Since the late 1980s, queer studies and theory have become vital to the intellectual life of the U.S. This has been, to no small degree, due to the popularity of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s critically acclaimed Epistemology of the Closet. Working from classic texts of European and American writers — including Herman Melville, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde — Sedgwick delineates a historical moment in which sexual identity became as important a demarcation of personhood as gender had been for centuries. Sedgwick’s literary analysis, while provocative and often startling (you will never read Billy Budd or The Picture of Dorian Gray the same way again), is simply the basis for a larger project of examining and analyzing how the categories of ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ continue to shape almost all aspects of contemporary thought. Epistemology of the Closet is a sometimes-dense work, but one filled with wit and empathy. Sedgwick writes with great intelligence and an eye for irony, but always makes clear that her theories and critical acumen are in the service of a politic that seeks to make the world a better and more humane place for everyone. An extraordinary book that reshapes how we think about literature, sexuality, and everyday life.” –Michael Bronski

“A signal event in the history of late twentieth-century gay studies. Sedgwick dispenses paradigms with breathtaking fluency, untangles every knot in gay theory, and proves that modern cognition itself hinges on the hetero/homo impasse. A virtuoso reader of novels and of predicaments, she illustrates what literary and cultural criticism, at its best, can be. I batten on every sentence. I don’t feel so remunerated, so challenged, so moved, by anything else I’ve read in the field.” –Wayne Koestenbaum

“This book gives us what the debate on ‘outing’ has lacked: a theory of the closet. By showing us that the closet is no place, but a structural relation – in our culture, the primary structural relation of knowledge/ignorance – Sedgwick has sharpened the edge of Foucault’s work on sexuality and power. In so doing, she has produced an essential antihomophobic text, the one every straight person had better read.” –Douglas Crimp