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332Philosophy and Literature be a narrator" (p. 81). In his concluding chapter, Bruner shows how the oral, "spontaneous autobiographical narratives" of ordinary people construct selves that are "not isolated nuclei of consciousness locked in the head, but are 'distributed ' interpersonally" (p. 138). Bruner's stress on agency reflects the current resistance, visible in philosophy and literary theory as well, to biological and cultural determinisms that reduce human conduct to the result of forces over which we have no control and for which we have no responsibility. The cultural psychology he proposes would seek to understand acts of meaning as transactions between self and other within a socially defined context. As Bruner acknowledges, such a psychology would be fundamentally interpretive, and thus rejoin the hermeneutic enterprise of the human sciences in general. University of OregonSteven Kendall Epistemology ofthe Chset, by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; 258 pp. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, $24.95. Gay men have long presented a problem for feminism, a certain strain of which has followed Luce Irigaray in denouncing that "hom(m)o-sexual monopoly ," "reigning everywhere, although prohibited in practice, . . . played out through the bodies of women." Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, in Between Men (1985), provided a theoretical grounding for the intuitive feeling that the male desire for men found in a gay male couple in Manhattan was significandy different from the masculinist trade in women displayed by Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms. She distinguished between male homosociality, which worked very much as Irigaray says, and male homosexuality, which violated the rules of homosociality by allowing the objectification of men. Not only was Between Men vitally important in forging an alliance between feminists and gay men, it quickly became a central document in the 1980s explosion of a gay studies informed by feminism. Now, in Epistemology of the Closet, Sedgwick continues her investigation: "Is men's desire for other men the great preservative of the masculinist hierarchies of Western culture, or is it among the most potent of the threats against them?" She compares a "minoritizing" view of"real" homosexuals and a "universalizing" assumption ofa homosocial society. Her analysis, which is deconstructive without theoretical discussions of deconstruction, shows that each of these categories both contains and conflates with its opposite. A whole range of deconstructible binarisms follow: as might be expected of dichotomies about such important Reviews333 topics as sex and power relations between the genders, these binarisms prove to ground much modern thinking. Her analysis debunks a number of myths about homosexuality and provides the prospect of escaping a number of impasses in gay theory, such as the debate between essentialists and constructivists. Sedgwick begins her literary analysis with two works written in 1891, at the time when medical and legal notions of "homosexuality" were crystallizing: Melville's Billy Budd and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Billy Budd, she neatly oudines the differences between the "real" homosexual in the text, John Claggart, and the homosociality best incorporated by Claggart's double, Captain Vere. Her reading of Wilde, almost outshone by the many fascinating aperçues of male-male desire in Nietzsche which fill out the chapter, brilliantly breaks down a number of clichéd dichotomies. Sedgwick then moves on to James's tale, "Beast in the Jungle," which shows, among other things, the destructive effects which the closeting of homosexuality can have on women. And finally, Sedgwick's inquiries into Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu apdy conclude her book by demonstrating once again the importance of the "open secret" of the closet, that much discussed, analyzed, condemned, and medicinalized space for the "love that dare not speak its name," to modern politics, philosophy, religion, and society. The observation that one-sentence summaries cannot do justice to chapterlength readings of literary works is particularly true of the chapters in Epistemology oftL· Closet, because Sedgwick writes much more personally and expansively in this study than in Between Men. This subjective style with its personal opinions and anecdotes is presumably part of her project, an attempt to break out of an academic discourse which has long refused to discuss the oppressive systems grounding it. Readers who still hanker for expository prose without digressions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 332-333
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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