Duke University Press, 1993

Tendencies brings together for the first time the essays that have made Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick “the soft-spoken queen of gay studies” (Rolling Stone). Combining poetry, wit, polemic, and dazzling scholarship with memorial and autobiography, these essays have set new standards of passion and truthfulness for current theoretical writing.

The essays range from Diderot, Oscar Wilde, and Henry James to queer kids and twelve-step programs; from “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl” to a performance piece on Divine written with Michael Moon; from political correctness and the poetics of spanking to the experience of breast cancer in a world ravaged and reshaped by AIDS. What unites Tendencies is a vision of a new queer politics and thought that, however demanding and dangerous, can also be intent, inclusive, writerly, physical, and sometimes giddily fun. —From the jacket copy

“Sedgwick is one of the smartest and wittiest critics writing. The play of her mind as it goes from Henry James to John Waters and Divine, from AIDS to Jane Austen and women’s anal eroticism, is dazzling. Her work is often as moving as it is acute: Like the best of the gay male writers whose work has been her principal subject, in her prose flawless surface lures the reader to explore new depths.” —Marilyn Hacker, The Nation

“Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick is deservedly recognized as the primum mobile of lesbian and gay studies. Yet her real achievement lies not so much in the creation of a new academic discipline, as in the profound implications her work carries for the rest of the academy, and the wider world beyond. Tendencies provides a marvelously exhilarating excursion across the range of her interests and involvements … She is the most consistently intelligent, courageous, perceptive, daring, and sensible critic currently writing in the United States. I strongly recommend panic-buying.” —Simon Watney

“From the most celebrated and the most prolix practitioner of lesbian and gay theory comes a collection of critical essays augmented by a memorial to a friend dead of AIDS at 39; an ingratiatingly playful ‘performance piece’ about drag, co-written with Michael Moon; and other occasional pieces. The most difficult but the most rewarding essays are those on Henry James and Oscar Wilde. The latter in particular—a close reading of The Importance of Being Earnest that becomes a meditation on the ‘avuncular,’ itself a revision of the heterosexist and hermetic Oedipal model—exemplifies Sedgwick’s ability to liberate homoerotic texts from the punitively ‘normalizing’ paradigms of hegemonic discourses. Tendencies, one of the first books issued under the imprint of Duke University Press’ Series Q, is erudite, witty, and essential.” —Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review


Foreword: T Times
Queer and Now

Queer Tutelage
Privilege of Unknowing: Diderot’s The Nun
Tales of the Avunculate: The Importance of Being Earnest
Is the Rectum Straight?: Identification and Identity in The Wings of the Dove
Memorial for Craig Owens

Crossing of Discourses
Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl
Epidemics of the Will
Nationalisms and Sexualities
How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay: The War on Effeminate Boys

Across Genders, Across Sexualities
Willa Cather and Others
A Poem Is Being Written
Divinity: A Dossier, A Performance Piece, A Little-Understood Emotion (written with Michael Moon)
White Glasses