James Baldwin and the "Closeted-ness" of American
This article reads the work of James Baldwin in dialogue with that of Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick. Taking its cue from Baldwin’s claim that Americans “live […] with something in
[their] closet” that they “pretend […] is not there,” it explores his depiction of a
United States characterized by the “closeted-ness” of its racial discourse. In doing so,
the article draws on Sedgwick’s work concerning how the containment of discourses
pertaining to sexuality hinges on the closeting of non-heteronormative sexual practices.
Reconceptualizing Sedgwick’s ideas in the context of a black, queer writer like Baldwin,
however, problematizes her own insistence on the “historical gay specificity” of the
epistemology she traces. To this end, this article does not simply posit a racial
counterpart to the homosexual closet. Rather, reflecting Baldwin’s insistence that “the
sexual question and the racial question have always been entwined,” I highlight here the
interpretive possibilities opened up by intersectional analyses that view race, sexuality,
and national identity as coextensive, reciprocal epistemologies.
Intimacy, Shame, and the Closet in James Baldwin’s
Monica B. Pearl
This essay’s close interrogation of James Baldwin’s 1956 novel
Giovanni’s Room allows us to see one aspect of how
sexual shame functions: it shows how shame exposes anxiety not only about the
feminizing force of homosexuality, but about how being the object of the gaze is
feminizing—and therefore shameful. It also shows that the paradigm of the
closet is not the metaphor of privacy and enclosure on one hand and openness and
liberation on the other that it is commonly thought to be, but instead is a site
of illusory control over whether one is available to be seen and therefore
humiliated by being feminized. Further, the essay reveals the paradox of denial,
where one must first know the thing that is at the same time being disavowed or
denied. The narrative requirements of fictions such as Giovanni’s
Room demonstrate this, as it requires that the narrator both know,
in order to narrate, and not know something at the same time.
) cognitive interpretation of affect, and ‘feeling’ as ‘a capacious term that connotes both physiological sensations (affects)
and psychological states (emotions)’.25 While recent approaches
to affect and emotion differ widely, what they share is the hunch
that paying attention to affect as a critical object has the capacity
to disturb poststructuralist orthodoxies.
For example, EveKosofskySedgwick and Adam Frank draw on
Silvan Tomkins’s massive study Affect, Imagery, Consciousness to
challenge what they see as the routine critical habits of post-structuralist theory: its
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
For discussions on the ways in which anxiety recombines with shame, and on how crucial shame is to the experience of homosociality, see Adam Frank and EveKosofskySedgwick (eds), Shame and its sisters: a Silvan Tomkins reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 6, 147–60; and EveKosofskySedgwick, Touching feeling: affect, pedagogy, performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 35–121. I am grateful to Daniel Remein for pointing me towards this illuminating work
accounts of incest in the Gothic is the psychoanalytic approach, upon
which I have already touched. Freudian theory underpins the works of
Gilbert and Gubar, DeLamotte, Hoeveler, EveKosofskySedgwick, Michelle
A. Masse and Pamela Kaufman. 85 Psychoanalysis is also the theoretical framework
for Anne Williams’s Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic
( 1995 ), in which she argues that
excellence if there ever was one – speaks of the ‘intimacy’ of ‘us’ and the field of the visible ‘as though there were between it and us an intimacy as close as between the sea and the strand’.
Meanwhile, EveKosofskySedgwick explores ‘the intuition that a particular intimacy seems to subsist between textures and emotions’,
with a particular instance of such an intimacy, around shame and anal eroticism in Henry James's The
The inflection of desire in Yvonne Vera and Tsitsi Dangarembga
culture and we can’t force it on our people. We don’t want to import it to our
country, we have our own culture, our own people’. Mugabe is also on record for
having said that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. See Rory Carroll,
‘Two views from the pulpit’, p. 4.
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Stories of women
21 See EveKosofskySedgwick’s introduction, ‘Paranoid reading and reparative
reading’, to Sedgwick (ed.), Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction (Durham, NC
and London: Duke
Sexuality , 11:3 (2002), 395–438 a useful bibliography
on Beckford’s homophilia, citing EveKosofskySedgwick’s Between Men: English Literature and Male
Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press,
1985) and Adam Potkay’s ‘Beckford’s heaven of
boys’, Raritan , 13.1 (1994), 73–83.
trajectory located in
the work of scholars in science studies, notably Isabelle Stengers and
Bruno Latour, and also in the work of the US queer theorist EveKosofskySedgwick. Sedgwick argued for a practice of ‘reparative reading’ to
replace or at least counter-balance what she called ‘paranoid reading’. As
important as demystification might be both in terms of the social and
physical substrates of matter, being in such a demystified state does not
inherently enable ethical action or the production of a just social order.
As Sedgwick admits, it may seem like a common
This book is about science in theatre and performance. It explores how theatre and performance engage with emerging scientific themes from artificial intelligence to genetics and climate change. The book covers a wide range of performance forms from the spectacle of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony to Broadway musicals, from experimental contemporary performance and opera to educational theatre, Somali poetic drama and grime videos. It features work by pioneering companies including Gob Squad, Headlong Theatre and Theatre of Debate as well as offering fresh analysis of global blockbusters such as Wicked and Urinetown. The book offers detailed description and analysis of theatre and performance practices as well as broader commentary on the politics of theatre as public engagement with science. It documents important examples of collaborative practice with extended discussion of the Theatre of Debate process developed by Y Touring theatre company, exploration of bilingual theatre-making in East London and an account of how grime MCs and dermatologists ended up making a film together in Birmingham. The interdisciplinary approach draws on contemporary research in theatre and performance studies in combination with key ideas from science studies. It shows how theatre can offer important perspectives on what the philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers has called ‘cosmopolitics’. The book argues that theatre can flatten knowledge hierarchies and hold together different ways of knowing.