Janes, Dominic. “Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain”, Oxford University Press, 2015.
The Development of Queer Readings
Dominic Janes uses “the closet” as a concept that gives unity to the history of same-sex desire from the eighteenth century forward to today. His study goes well beyond the concept that the homosexual was an end of the 19th century construction and he maintains that this construction began long before that time. With new source material, Janes uses various methodologies in case studies in order to show that literature, art, history, philosophy, film, social history and other approaches can give to the queer readings from the past.
Before the concept of homosexual came into being, Janes questions how people could think that they could identify a homosexual and asks if secrecy and denial played into the concept before the idea of the closet was developed in the late twentieth century.
Before that was there a concept of what homosexuals looked and acted like? Were those gay men who were not obvious in flamboyance distinguishable from the rest of society? Did those who wanted to look “normal” achieve that?
It was these cultural constructions that have been attacked time and again and quite notably by writer Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in her “Epistemology of the Closet” and she labeled this concept as ‘the defining structure for gay oppression in this century’.
Using interdisciplinary case studies in order to explore both before the closet and the present day, looks at key moments and issues within British cultural experience and does so by using sources that range from “art to fashion, literature, philosophy, theology, film and archival records.”
Janes uses the potential of visual culture to reveal patterns of expression and obfuscation that go beyond the verbal bringing us the idea that the closet existed before the homosexual identity was spoken of. In fact, Janes tells us that the closet “offered its own spectacular forms of ‘self-fulfillment and expression.'” Janes traces the history of the closet by going back to its origins in the 18th century and he reminds us that this space that was both literal and metaphorical was more than just a place and a symbol of a minority that was oppressed. It was also a place where creativity was nurtured and it produced some very important ideas and images not only about homosexuality and the homosexual’s place in society but also it was a source of “subversive queer subjectivities.”
Below is the table of contents to give you an idea of what is included in Janes’ book.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1, Introduction: Picturing the Closet
Ch. 2, Hogarth’s Panic
Ch. 3, Burke’s Solution
Ch. 4, The Decorative and the Damned
Ch. 5, Athletics and Aesthetics
Ch. 6, Strachey in Earnest
Ch. 7, Expulsion Part Three
Ch. 8, Criminal Practices
Ch. 9, The Unliberated
Ch. 10, After the Outrage