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Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Durham, NC, 1992. Photo: H. A. Sedgwick.

WHEN I FIRST ENCOUNTERED Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, in the 1980s, we were both teaching at New England schools. It was a dark and snowy night, but the friends and faculty who came out that evening for Sedgwick’s lecture at Williams College (where I had recently joined the Romance-languages department) were excited to hear the Amherst professor who had authored the groundbreaking book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985). Sedgwick’s talk was a thunderbolt. At a time when “theory” was riveted to analysis of Foucault’s power-knowledge axis, her presentation revalued ignorance. In her discussion of Denis Diderot’s The Nun, later published in her 1992 essay collection Tendencies, she proposed to “pluralize and specify” ignorance by looking at “psychological operations of shame, denial [and] projection,” topics that would preoccupy her throughout her life and

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