Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 1950-2009

I think many adults (and I am among them) are trying, in our work, to keep faith with vividly remembered promises made to ourselves in childhood: promises to make invisible possibilities and desires visible; to make the tacit things explicit; to smuggle queer representation in where it must be smuggled and, with the relative freedom of adulthood, to challenge queer-eradicating impulses frontally where they are to be so challenged.

I think that for many of us in childhood the ability to attach intently to a few cultural objects, objects of high or popular culture or both, objects whose meaning seemed mysterious, excessive, or oblique in relation to the codes most readily available to us, became a prime resource for survival. We needed for there to be sites where the meanings didn’t line up tidily with each other, and we learned to invest those sides with fascination and love. (“Queer and Now” 3)

I never met Sedgwick or even listened to her give a lecture. But I feel that she made it possible for me to exist, to turn my misfit overintellectualized object-mediated desires into scholarship and work and something that could, perhaps, matter. Her place in the critical genealogy of queer theory is assured, but I always also felt a great personal attachment for the way she put herself into her writing; reading continents and generations away, I felt that she was speaking to and for me. The dissertation prospectus I’m writing at the moment contains some critiques of the utopian discourse of queer possibility “Queer and Now” has always embodied for me, but I still can’t imagine theory having a greater value than that.

The world is surely a shade less queerly exciting for no longer having her in it.

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