Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009)
by Mandy Blakeman
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was born in 1950 in Dayton, Ohio. Showing early academic promise, Sedgwick skipped grades in school, earning her a full scholarship to Cornell University when she was just sixteen years old. She became a noted lecturer at many prestigious colleges and universities, including Duke University, which produced many of her published works. Sedgwick is most well-known as one of the foundational thinkers of queer theory, taking inspiration from fellow scholars Michael Foucalt and Judith Butler. Her work urged readers of literature to look outside limiting heterosexual norms for details that might be queer, or outside of the normative in some way. The term queer can refer to many concepts, all centering around this idea of disruption from the straight and normative: desire that unsettles the straight, or sexuality as fluid and decentered, for instance. In the work Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, Sedgwick argues that homosexuality is just as embedded into our culture as heterosexuality. In coining the term homosociality, Sedgwick points out the intrinsic queerness of male-male relationships formed on the common fear of homosexuality, again rejecting the normative way of thinking. Her work in the area of queer performativity explores the idea that we outwardly enact, create, and destroy gay identity or identities, expanding upon Judith Butler’s thesis (Pellegrini). In a 1991 essay titled “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl” Sedgwick asserts the presence of female homosexuality and masturbation throughout the works of Austen, examining in particular the interpersonal relationships of the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. Sedgwick’s body of work represents an eclectic interest in sociology, philosophy, literature & poetry, and LGBTI studies. With it, she perhaps sparked, or at the very least tapped into, a school of thought that sought to fight back against heteronormativity and the patriarchy, both in literature and beyond it.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. Columbia University Press, 1992.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 17, no. 4, 991, pp. 818–837. JSTOR.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Edwards, Jason. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. London: Routledge, 2009.
Pellegrini, Ann. “Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 22 July 2020, www.chronicle.com/article/eve-kosofsky-sedgwick/. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021
Sedgwick, H. A. “Life of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 2020,evekosofskysedgwick.net/biography/biography.html. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021