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Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Biography

(1950– ), Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, Epistemology of the Closet, Between Men

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography

American theoretician, born in Dayton, educated at Yale. She became a professor of English at Duke University and a key figure in the emergence of ‘queer theory’ as an academic discipline. Her two most influential texts, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) and Epistemology of the Closet (1990), argue that the homosexual–heterosexual binary develops as an instrument to support heterosexuality and male dominance. Between Men traces the changes in the imagining of male–male relations with respect to a third term, woman, in standard ‘canonized’ English writers, for example Shakespeare, George Eliot, Thackeray, and Dickens. She describes a ‘homosocial triangle’ in which two men vie for a woman as a way to repress their desire for each other. In Epistemology of the Closet, she describes how the ‘closet’ supports heterosexual dominance by imagining a homosexual secret that is lurking in all male relationships. Looking at texts by Henry James, Proust, Melville, and Wilde, she suggests that homosexuality is not a minor aspect of culture, but rather central to Western constructions of gender and sexuality. Her work has had profound effect on numerous critical and theoretical writers interested in sexuality and gender by opening up areas of inquiry, most notably the study of male homosexuality in Western culture. Her other works include Tendencies (1993), a collection of critical essays; Fat Art, Thin Art (1994), a collection of poems; and The Coherence of Gothic Conventions (1980), an early study.

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