Reading Notes for September 12, 2012
EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE CLOSET by EVE KOSOFSKY SEDGWICK (1990)
In Epistemology of the Closet, author Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues that standard binary oppositions limit freedom and
understanding, especially as related to sexuality. Limiting sexuality to homosexual or heterosexuality, in structured binary
opposition, is just too simplistic, according to Sedgwick. What, then, comprises human sexuality? Only through the careful
examination and understanding of queer theory can we begin to understand the deeper meanings behind human sexuality and
important revelations in Epistemology of the Closet. In the compilation, author Sedgwick reveals that several sexual contradictions
yield modern misunderstanding, language is a relevant force behind sexuality, and labeled speech acts are ultimately the proof of the
nature of one’s sexuality.
Epistemology of the closet is not dated however, events of June 1969 and later could be a start
D.A. Miller on “secrecy”: the subjective practice in which the oppositions of private/public, inside/outside,
subject/object are established and the sanctity of their first term kept inviolate.
It is difficult that to know if knowing that someone is gay would actually matter.
Should someone stay in her closet in some of the aspects of her life?
Case of Acanforca (Montgomery County, Maryland in 1973)
“The closet” and “coming out”
The closet was the defining structure for gay oppression in this century.
Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), is a United States Supreme Court decision that upheld, in a 5-4 ruling, the
constitutionality of a Georgiasodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to
homosexuals.The majority opinion, written by Justice Byron White, argued that the Constitution did not confer "a fundamental right
to engage in homosexual sodomy."]A concurring opinion by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger cited the "ancient roots" of prohibitions
against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone's description of homosexual sex as an "infamous crime against nature", worse
than rape, and "a crime not fit to be named." Burger concluded: "To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as
a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching."(Wikipedia)
National Public Radio: Sixties as a decade when Black People came out of the closet “coming out of the closet”
could have evacuated its gay specificity.
Late eighteenth century: knowledge = sexual knowledge; ignorance = sexual ignorance
July 1, 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick
Discussions on the ruling what if there is a clerk in the supreme court who is in-the-closet gay
Suggestions of a possibility that a Gay person might have played a big role in the ruling
Comparison of the story of Queen Esther (a Jew) might strengthen her brothers and sisters but endanger her life.
o Her identity is not debatable, a porous (not retentive or secure), and a mutable fact about her.
o Esther is confident of how people (her husband, especially) will react on her revelation. Gay people,
however, are not in control of the information about their sexual identity coming out is more on
crystallizing intuitions or convictions that had been in air for a while already
o Esther feared for her life and her people but did not think it is damaging for her husband on the contrary,
it is damaging for the people around a gay person, especially her family.
o The king did not see himself or his relation to her wife differently after the Queen’s revelation.
o There is no suggestion that the King might be himself a Jew in disguise gay people might find that a
homophobic figure might be gay and closeted too.
o Esther knows who her people are and has an immediate answerability to them gay people seldom grow
up in gay families
o Esther’s avowal occurs within and perpetuates a coherent system of gender subordination. Patriarchism
made coming out to t