The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Eve Sedgwick, from introduction, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire

  1. What is meant by homosociality? Male homosocial desire? What does she believe is different about the relation between homosociality and homosexuality than its female equivalent? (2435)
  2. Do you find this distinction entirely convincing?
  3. What is meant by “desire,” as opposed to love or sexuality? (2435; desire refers to a structure of feeling)
  4. What relationship does she see between same-sex relationships, say of friendship or family, among women and lesbian ones? (2436) Does she present evidence for this view?
  5. What comic example does she use to make the point that not all male homosocial bonds are homosexual? (2436)
  6. Is it possible to have a society which is patriarchal but not homophobic? (2437) What example apparently proves her point?
  7. What does Sedgwick believe can be learned from the asymmetry of the contemporary homosocial continua? (meaning exists in a larger network of developing social and gender relations, changing relation between sexual and power relationships)
  8. Why do you think Sedgwick discusses exclusively male rather than female homosocial desire?
  9. Is Sedgwick correct that "our society could not cease to be homophobic and have its economic and political structures remain unchanged?" (2437)

from Epistemology of the Closet, Axiom 2

  1. What is axiom 2? (2438) What is the difference between “sex” and “gender”? Which does Sedgwick see as the broader notion?
  2. Why might one want to collapse this difference? And on the other hand, what would motivate the attempt to differentiate them, for example, by feminists? (2439)
  3. What does she see as the most important issue in gender differentiation? (the question of who is to have control of women’s [biologically] distinctive reproductive capability, 2439)
  4. According to her, can one locate all aspects of sex and sexuality on the “map delimited by the feminist-defined sex/gender distinction”? (2440, sexuality exhibits an excess over needs of procreation) Instead, what does she see as its features? (“could occupy, instead, even more than ‘gender’ the polar position of the relational, the social/symbolic, the constructed, the variable, the representational”)
  5. What does her chart indicate about the different approaches to feminist/sexual issues taken by “constructivist feminism,” “radical feminism,” and “Foucault-influenced analysis”?
  6. What does she mean in noting that there is always at least a potential for analytic difference between gender and sexuality?
  7. How are gender and sexuality specifically linked? (2441, definitionally)
  8. What is the natural bias/limitation of gender analyses? (2442, stress differential boundaries, thus priviledge heterosexuality)
  9. What insights does she believe gay theorists can gain from feminist theory? (2442-43, knowledge that person oppressed by one form of discrimination may be aided by another; opppressions are differently structured; understanding that gender may be significant even in situations where it is not named, 2444)
  10. What does she see as the special characteristics of homophobic oppression in the twentieth century? (2443, linked to questions of epistemology)
  11. Why is the binary heterosexual/homosexual inaccurate, in her view? Why is the notion of sexuality especially suited for deconstrucive analysis? (2444) Do you think she is correct?
  12. What does it mean to say that there are many dimensions of sexuality undescribable in terms of object-choice? (2444) Of gendered object choice? (e. g. age, human/animal, singular/plural, etc.)
  13. Why can’t one equate “gay/lesbian and antihomophobic theory” with “sexual theory”? (2445)
  14. Does Sedgwick explain what she thinks might be some of the content of “gay/lesbian and antihomophobic theory” and studies?
  15. Why do you think she does not pay much attention to distinctions between male homosexual and lesbian issues? Is this a part of her discussion which is elided?
  16. Which of her ideas do you think were new, at least in 1985 and 1990? Which seem most valuable?

Selections from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001 edition, 2434-45.

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