Since the late s, queer studies and theory have become vital to the intellectual and political life of the United States. This has been due, in no small degree. BOOK REVIEW. Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick*. Reviewed by Mark Reschke**. In the s, homophobic attacks from many fronts. : Epistemology of the Closet, Updated with a New Preface ( ): Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick: Books.

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Epistemology of the Closet – Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick – Google Books

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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return eplstemology Book Page. Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Through readings of Melville, Nietzsche, Wilde, James and Proust, the author argues that the vexed imperatives to specify straight and gay identities have become central to every important form of knowledge of the 20th century. Paperbackpages. Published October 16th by University of California Press first published James Russell Lowell Prize Nominee To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

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Lists with This Book. Apr 05, Khush rated it it was amazing. It is informative as it looks kosofky the very physiognomy of ‘closet,’ and it is interesting because it assays the work of some great authors such as Proust, Joyce, Lawrence, and Wilde. Even though when one is familiar with these writers, it is exciting to look at their works with the acutely focused perspective of the ‘Closet.

In countless personal gay narratives, one often hears ‘Epistemology of the closet’ is an informative and interesting book. In countless personal gay narratives, one often hears, ‘Oh I thought I were the only one,’ ‘this is only happening to me. It needs a lot of effort to learn that this happens because all spaces are understood, and assigned meanings in rigid, normative binaries; whatever lies outside these binaries is ‘closeted.

The more distinct these binaries are, the easier it is to assign people different identity markers. Prior to the end of 19th century, men were men, but since then, they have been transformed into homo and Heterosexual men, whereas no such distinction existed before. According to Eva Kosofsky, the construction of ‘homosexual man’ has been a presiding term of the 20th century, one that has the same, primary importance for all modern Western identity and social organization as do the more traditionally visible cruxes of gender, class, and race.

The changed world, at least in the western geographies, produced other markers of identities, other ways of being in the world.

Epistemology of the Closet

For instance, for multiple reasons, modern cities do not control human bodies and desires in the way agrarian societies do. A big jump here Therefore, even today, the industrially developed world is far more evolved when it comes to the rights of minority sexualities, whereas in the pre-industrial societies, the term ‘closet’ is irrelevant because the homosexual man has not arrived there. Again, no matter, how much one is tempted to denounce Marx; it is amazing to see how good his theories of base and super-structures are in explaining the world.

Zedgwick one hand, I feel glad reading, for instance, about the episteme of the ‘closet,’ it gives the impression that mankind is evolving in a linear fashion. However, the more one reads and reflects and looks at the discourse epistemplogy machinery, one sees how easy it is to produce — very specific and largely pragmatic, not necessarily motivated by any sense of righteousness and ethics, knowledge systems and ask people to behave. In the end, I must add that the chapters on Proust and Wilde can still be enjoyed even if one has not read them.

In fact, on my second reading of these chapters, I tried to read them as if I were not familiar with their works, they are still accessible. The book, of course, demands patience. The content in it is, after all, the work of a lifetime. Jun epistemolofy, David rated it it was amazing Shelves: I have been thinking a lot lately about how variable the gay experience is across America and around the world, and even by individual.


Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler showed me the transformative power of the word queer

I have been recently seeing a guy from Venezuela who is only in the process of coming out. He hasn’t come out to his parents, but has come out to his American friends and classmates, as well as some of his close female cousins. He has three brothers, and after coming out to one of them recently, he received the response that while his brother respects him, he do I have been thinking a lot lately about how variable the gay experience is across America and around the world, and even by individual.

He has three brothers, and after coming out to one of them recently, he received the response that while his brother respects him, he does not support him. I was a bit taken aback by the rather brash out-casting in this day and age, and a bit shocked that there is still so much hatred and misunderstanding in the world today. Being raised in Massachusetts in the middle class, my perception of acceptance is likely to be pretty skewed toward liberal notions of equality, acceptance, etc.

I haven’t lost any friends, I haven’t been eschewed from my family or work communities; I have been accepted for who I am, gay. But I wonder if I am missing out on some important rites and rituals as a homosexual, being so readily accepted? Am I missing out on an experience that is supposed to shape me? It has been a while now since I have read through Eve Sedgewick’s Epistemology of the Closet and while I may have lost some of the particulars and nuances into the receding oblivion, the impact it has made on my world view persists.

Throughout literature, just as throughout life, we encounter everywhere the metaphor of the closet. So much rhetoric has been propped up against this metaphor of the “closet” that it seems that it creates this vicious cycle of stigmatizing people who are unsure, figuring it out, or simply constrained by other forces. Being “in” the closet is perceived as living a false, sham half-life – it isn’t living. You are deemed doubly guilty: We live in such an insecure society, and everyone is in one closet or another, and many of them are made of glass: It is not only “us” versus “them” – gay versus straight, there is such a broad range of internally directed hatred, judgment and shaming within the gay community.

As a group we parade and champion acceptance, but behind the confines of our paper partitions, we do not often accept one another for our variations on the same theme.

I read recently that many believe that homophobia is a fear that the homophobe himself may be gay – that is probably true, and is by no means a new idea. What is the origin of this? Where did all this hate even come from? In the ancient past, homosexuality was a fairly common and accepted passtime, though socially constructed in such a way.

There was not any kind of enduring relationship – no gaily married men on Olympus that I know of, anyhow. But the sexual component was accepted if not promoted by the ancients. I suppose it must have been the rise of religion that gave voice to the prudish hatred for the sexual act. I have a Mormon friend whose parents told him that while he is entitled to love whoever he chooses, they condemn the homosexual act.

Are love and sex not a golden braid in themselves? A complicated relationship exists between the commingling of hearts sedgwidk the physical manifestation in bodies, but it seems a gross hypocrisy to allow one and condemn the other. La Rochefoucauld wrote “There are some people who would never have fallen in love if they had not heard there was such a thing” – sedgwico the same go for hate as goes for love? How would someone grow to hate themselves or to hate others for their differences, if someone aeons ago had not given voice, conceived of such a word, as defines something to be hated?

And will that rhetoric of homophobia and hatred ever truly be extricated from our language? Language is very powerful – it can make people fall in love, it can entertain, it can enlighten, but it can also breed hatred and misunderstanding, it can lie, it can kill.


View all 5 comments. Feb 09, Nocturnalux added it Shelves: Fairly early on Sedgwick characterizes this project, in lieu of a warning of sorts, as ‘not pellucid’. This is a very accurate assessment, both in terms of content and regarding the form of Epistemology of the Closet. Which is to say that Sedwick tackles the subject matter that she admits is highly problematic with a highly dense text that is resistant to a simple reading as said subject matter itself.

This makes for a reading experience that is as highly interesting as it can be frustrating. Ti Fairly early on Sedgwick characterizes this project, in lieu of a warning of sorts, as ‘not pellucid’. Time and time again one finds oneself going back a few lines to disentangle the semantic bog strewn across very long paragraphs riddled with often obscure terms. It is the kind of book that requires a second read while voiding that very possibility by the very nature of the text.

Sedgwick seems very aware that this is her approach inbuilds the main theme of instability of possible semantic attributions into the very fabric of the text itself so that it becomes structural in more senses than one. Whether she realizes sergwick is also likely to turn off potential readers who would otherwise gladly explore the ideas expoused in said text is another question.

Around this axis Sedgwick works out an analysis of seminal no pun intended texts in kosofskyy literature. Given how non-pellucid Sedgwick herself is, it is not surprising that Henry James should feature so prominently.

If James were born in the 20th century and turned to queer theory, I expect he would write very much as Sedgwick does, which is oddly enchanting, in a way. Familiarity with these works is mandatory, rereadings may even be in order otherwise an already oblique text veers into unintelligibility. While Sedgwick does frame each author and summarize each work minus Proust’s, which is understandablethe reader is expected to know them fairly well along with Foucault and have the particular texts fresh in their memory.

Melville and Billy Budd This was perhaps my favorite chapter. Issues of articulation, of silencing and pacifying homosexual tensions give it an extra sense of relevance.

Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray Surprisingly enough this chapter was not as long or thorough as one might expect. Given the importance the text has had for queer writers, readers kksofsky queer-ness in thw, Sedgwick does not invest as much as one might like in her analysis. Dorian Gray serves as an examples of how the ‘homo’ aspect of ‘homosexuality’ came to be perceived via the by now common place Double them of the picture itself.

Henry James and The Beast in the Jungle This cposet a short story that not even dedicated James readers will immediately bring to memory, assuming they have even read it I had not. The chapter dedicated to the king of obscurity is the one closest to ‘pure’ literary analysis. It proposes an alternate interpretation to the orthodox one by reading the characters as dancing in and around the closet.

Ideas of self-blindness and internalized homophobia that goes so deep it becomes destructive of the self are presented with the typical overabundance of verbosity but are convincing for all that. It deconstructs the mechanisms through which a queer individual goes from simply suffering epistenology the stifling effects of homophic repression to actively enforcing them.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick – Archive – Epistemology of the Closet

Proust and A la Reserche By far the most fun chapter to read and probably the one that is both clearest on sections and obfuscating on others. Sedgick self-inserts, intentionally so, throughout most of this one.

The main theme is the closet as spectacle: This is the only chapter in whuch lesbianism is the focus; through Albertine’s fluid and less structured homosexual potential, Sedgwick projects a more modern point of view around homosexuality as a whole.