Since the late 1980s, queer studies and theory have become vital to the intellectual life of the U.S. This has been, to no small degree, due to the popularity of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's critically acclaimed Epistemology of the Closet. Working from classic texts of European and American writers--including Herman Melville, Henry James, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde--Sedgwick delineates a historical moment in which sexual identity became as important a demarcation of personhood as gender had been for centuries.
Sedgwick's literary analysis, while provocative and often startling (you will never read Billy Budd or The Picture of Dorian Gray the same way again), is simply the basis for a larger project of examining and analyzing how the categories of "homosexual" and "heterosexual" continue to shape almost all aspects of contemporary thought. Epistemology of the Closet is a sometimes-dense work, but one filled with wit and empathy. Sedgwick writes with great intelligence and an eye for irony, but always makes clear that her theories and critical acumen are in the service of a politic that seeks to make the world a better and more humane place for everyone. An extraordinary book that reshapes how we think about literature, sexuality, and everyday life. --Michael Bronski [via]