“Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire”, 30th Anniversary Edition by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick— A Classic Re-issued

between men

Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. “Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire”, 30th Anniversary Edition, Columbia University Press, 2015.

A Classic Re-issued

Amos Lassen

 In 1985 when “Between Men” was originally published, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick challenged old ways of reading while articulating critical byways for two emerging disciplines. The book gave queer studies and gender studies scholars further reason to re-evaluate the canon, re-examine its contents carefully, and add unconventional texts based on sound theoretical grounds. The hegemony of heteronormative critique received a blow from which it has been difficult to change and critique now was to apply not only to literature but to politics, religion, society, and culture to broader investigations of power, desire, and sex as well. By becoming more aware of the changing ideas of Western society and taking into account debates on gender and sexuality we now get greater insight into its recent conservative and religious turns. This edition has a new foreword by Wayne Koestenbaum in which he emphasizes the work’s ongoing importance shows that Sedgwick’s landmark book remains a key analysis of homosocial desire in Western literature. for any reader curious about the subject’s claim to legitimacy.

The book claims its place as one of the most influential texts in gender studies, men’s studies and gay studies. It not only changes our interpretations of a number of literary texts but it also changes the way we read.

Sedgwick shows how, in a homophobic world where homosocial desire bonds men together, men’s desire for each other must be manifested across the body and we become acutely aware of what this means. When it was first published, it was seen as not only an important intervention in gay studies but also in feminist studies simply because it argued that “sexuality” and “desire” were carefully managed social constructs. This insight, which is Foucaldian in origin, is seen often as anti-humanist or post-humanist because of how it argues that men and women are simply the products of patriarchal power relations over which they have no control. Using Michel Foucault’s theories of the history of sexuality, Sedgwick shows that feminism and gay and lesbian studies are ideally situated to continue those interventions that Foucault originally proposed. The introduction holds the power in its criticism of research agendas that were being used. In the introduction we see a synopsis of academic feminisms and the need for a new kind of discipline that will use of the best part of existing feminisms and continue to evolve Gay and Lesbian Studies in productive directions.

As did Foucault Sedgwick treats “masculinity” and “femininity” and “lesbian” and “homosexual” as historically contingent and shifting categories. The

book was then a brilliant beginning and it has remained so. It is an essential antecedent to contemporary queer theory in its arguing that “the development of the public sphere depended upon a sublimated yet necessarily erotic ‘male homosocial desire’.”

Below is the table of contents:

Foreword: The Eve Effect, by Wayne Koestenbaum

Preface to the 1993 Edition



  1. Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles
  2. Swan in Love: The Examples of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
  3. The Country Wife: Anatomies of Male Homosocial Desire
  4. A Sentimental Journey: Sexualism and the Citizen of the World
  5. Toward the Gothic: Terrorism and Homosexual Panic
  6. Murder Incorporated: Confessions of a Justified Sinner
7. Tennyson’s Princess: One Bride for Seven Brothers
  7. Adam Bede and Henry Esmond: Homosocial Desire and the Historicity of the Female
  8. Homophobia, Misogyny, and Capital: The Example of Our Mutual Friend
10. Up the Postern Stair: Edwin Drood and the Homophobia of Empire

Coda. Toward the Twentieth Century: English Readers of Whitman