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Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Review by: Patricia S.

Yaeger MLN, Vol. 100, No. 5, Comparative Literature (Dec., 1985), pp. 1139-1144 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/10/2012 06:03
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fr6mconsiderations of Nietzsche, Derrida, Heidegger and finishwith a veritabledisplayof Aristotle's"being is spoken of in many ways,"relentand theyreinforce the of lesslyreturnto the difficulty thinking imperative, how haunted Kant's architectonichas become. The attemptto construct a "Kant" may be one of the responses to uneasiness he unleashes, and Nancy's presentation,however dependent upon the legacy of one phase in Heidegger's reading of Kant, points towardsa more general confrontation,firstdiscerniblein Fichte,withthe haunt that Kant bequeathed. strikes the assumpat Nancy's meditationon the sense of the imperative that the apophantic sentence bears tion,common at least since Aristotle, all meaning and hence formsthe basis and the essence of language. Kant no doubt remained withinthis traditionwhen he concentratesupon the in functionof synthesis judgment, but he radicallybreaks withit when he introduces the imperative and makes it the vehicle of meaning for all rational creatures. The French Kant often speaks in imperimperfectly atives-sentences whichare not implicatedin the assertionof truth-and however peculiar the Kant who emerges, he cannot be avoided. For this Kant declares an underground war on the apophantic sentence-on the primacyof truth,on truthitself-and Nancy helps to draw the conflict out into the open.
HopkinsUniversity TheJohns PETER FENVES

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men. EnglishLiterature Male Homoand socialDesire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. 244 pages. In Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West,"a girl walksbeside the sea and sings. Her voice has enviable power. Not only does she sing "beyond the genius of the sea," beyond the confiningpower of the genius loci,but she becomes the archetypalpoet, the source of it all: "She was the single artificer the world / In which she sang. And when she sang, the of sea / Whatever self it had, became the self thatwas her song, for she was the maker." What more need be said? To envisiona woman as the maker of myths,the namer of names: the idea is breathtaking.For feminist purposes we seem to have arrived,seem to be lingeringat a thresholdin the historyof writingwhere men have not only begun to share, but to cede their nominative power to woman herself.Or have we? Stevens is not, after all, content to linger with this image; his poem goes on for another two stanzas and addresses a masculine companion: RamonFernandez, me,ifyouknow, tell whenthesinging Why, endedand we turned
As the nightdescended, tilting the air, in Mastered the nightand portioned out the sea,

Toward the town,tell whythe glassylights,

The lights thefishing in boatsat anchorthere,


REVIEWS emblazoned zonesand fiery Fixing poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Harold Bloom Who is "master"here? Althoughin ThePoemsofOur Climate insists thatwhen Stevens'singerstops singing"her lingeringidea of order" unquestionably"triumphsover both the pale and unknowingFernandez and the Stevens who knows too well the fear of a 'calm darkness among waterlights,'" afterreading Eve KosofskySedgwick'sBetween Men: English Literature Male Homosocial and Desirewe will never be able to say that Stevens' maidenly singer forms the apex of a feminocentric triangleagain. While the "single artificer" may representthe poet's ideal-his impossible wish for androgynous "mastery,"it is only in the more open and ironic dialogue withhis other alter ego, withRamon Fernandez, that"The Idea of Order at Key West" achieves its conclusion and begins its quest for a plural artificing.Stevens recognizes, as his singer cannot, that it is not through the Adamic process of naming but only in the more complex process of dialogue that our linguisticpower resides, and that dialogic power, like the economic prowess it mediates,mustbe kept betweenmen. I have begun myreviewof Sedgwick'sbook witha re-readingof Stevens' poem because I want from the outset to emphasize Sedgwick's power to make us see familiartextsin new ways. Aftera dazzling analysisof Adam Bede and Henry for Esmond, example, Sedgwickconcludes: "in the presence of a woman who can be seen as pitiable or contemptible, men are able to exchange power and to confirmeach other's value even in the contextof the remaining inequalities in their power" (p. 160). This paradigm aptly summarizesthe homosocial dynamicof Esmondand AdamBede and seems What instantly-and terrifyingly-applicableto a dozen other narratives. is masked in these novels' sexual pyrotechnics not only an unattractive is machismo but a covert pacificationfor painful class differences:"The sexually pitiable or contemptiblefemale figure is a solventthat not only facilitates the relativedemocratizationthat grows up withcapitalismand cash exchange, but goes a long way-for the men whom she leaves bonded together-toward palliating its gaps and failures" (p. 160). Clearly the of structures homosocial desire that Sedgwick uncovers are so omnipresent in Western literature and so often read through other ideological screens that we should beware-her ideas invitea new criticalvigilance and yetstrikeso close to home thattheyinvitetheirown palliativerepresSedgwick'scentraltheme is the explorationof changes in the patternof male "homosocial desire" over several centuriesof English literature, and she gives detailed attentionto the ways in which "male friendship, mentorship, entitlement,rivalryand hetero- and homosexuality" (1) have structuredthemselvesin relation to shifting patternsof class and gender. But the blasphemous discoveryof her book-its underlying paradigm and gothic bequest-is her recognitionof the ways homosocial desire can be read in relation to the changing structureof "male traffic women": a in traffic that makes homosocial bonds cohere.



Sedgwickis carefulto define her termsand to explain her methodology in a way that is as useful as it is electric."Homosocial" she explains, is a neologism meant to be distinguishedfrom "homosexual" and connotes a formof male bonding often accompanied by a fear or hatred of homosexuality.(In her finalchaptersSedgwickexplains how thisfear can function as a regulativeideal keeping the traffic women and thejouissance in of men flowing in phallogocentrically productive directions.)Moreover, Sedgwick differentiates between a male homosocial and a lesbian continuum. Although we can identifyan uninterruptedsequence in which women love and affirm other women in both the private and public spheres, male bonding often involves the disruption of such continuity and may provoke a homophobic reactionto candid expressionsof passion or to explicitsexual bonding withother men. Obligatoryheterosexuality becomes the name, though not the ultimatemeaning, of the homosocial game. Sedgwick emphasizes that this discontinuous homosocial/heterosexual spectrum takes on different cultural shapes in different historical eras, and shp can argue conclusivelyfor this differentiation because her is methodology at once acute and expansive; she borrowsfrombothMarxist and radical feminist points of view. This synthetic approach is an importantand innovativestep in feminist analysis.Since Marxistfeminists want to examine the interconnectionbetween the division of labor and the vicissitudes historicalchange, an analysisof sexualityis only of interest of when it leads to a reading of the shifting "value" of women's reproductive labor. Marxist feministshave increased our understanding of both the cultural division of labor and the social statusof so-called "deviants"like prostitutes and male homosexuals, but theiranalysishas contributed minimallyto our understandingof heterosexuality. contrast,radical femIn inistshave seen sexism as the root oppression (and thus responsible for classism and racism), or, more moderately,have viewed sexualityas the fundamentalproblem in the formationof female identity.Radical feministswant to understand our culture's systematic distribution libido, of but theytend to ignore the criticaladvantages offeredby diachronicanalysisand to describe sexualityin termsof a fixed economy; the dangerous and transformative volatility potentialof history gets excluded fromtheir critique. To choose either of these positions is to miss a great deal, and when Sedgwick inventsa mode of analysis combiningboth perspectives, she creates a diagnosticmodel others will emulate. If her beautifulmediation between the "deconstructive finesse"of radical feminist thought and the historicalmaterialismof Marxist feminism makes Sedgwick's book required reading for all those embarked on a feministproject, her revision of the erotic triangleswhich Rend Girard in analyzes so skillfully Deceit, Desireand the Novelmakes her book required reading for everyoneelse. Girard discoversthatin any given love triangle the choice of the beloved may depend more upon the predilectionof one's rival than it does upon unmediated desire for the beloved. In such erotic rivalrythe forces connecting the two rivals are often as passional and



perhaps more cohesive than those connectingthe rivalsto the love-object. Girard offers this geometric analysis (in which the sides of the erotic triangleare read as equilateral)as a synchronic paradigm: he assumes that these patternsof rivalryfor and bonding through the body of another reveal symmetry with respect to class and gender. Sedgwick points out thatthe triangleGirard describesis not at all equilateral,thatthe structure Girard talks about most frequentlyinvolves two captious males battling for a less captious female,and that the acting out of thissexual geometry reinforcesthe mapping of social power; Girard omits from his analysis, "categories that in fact preside over the distributionof power in every society"(22). Sedgwick does more than point out the real gender asymmetriesin Girard's erotic triangles,she also shows that this farcicalinsistence on symmetry itselfa power device: it is an illusionuseful in mainis tainingmale power relationswhich are not at all illusory.While the imaginaryeven-handedness of Girard's reading of the erotictrianglegives us a distortedvision of how mediated desire functions,at the same time a criticaware of thissymmetrical "disproportion"can use Girard'sgeometry to discover points of contentionwithina given class/gender and to system examine the changingratioof homo- and heterosocialdesires in any given cultural period. Afterexplaining Girard's misprisions, Sedgwick goes on in chapter two to an analysis of Shakespeare's sonnets in order to investigate the "organizing power" of this triangular drama. The sonnets make interesting introductory material because of their explicit homoerotic content and because of the obviouslyillusorysymmetry their triangulation.When of the young man the sonnets address is instructedto reproduce himself "(w)hat is at stake is preservingthe continuity the existingdominant of culture."The sonnetsreproduce the desirability male-malelove instead of of the more dangerous possibilityof desiring women, and this love is founded in organized social arrangementscarried out via the bodies of women in ways that do not oppose the youth's bond to the speaker. In the later sonnets, however, heterosexuality is suddenly dangerous: to bring in an actual woman and to act out the rivalriesimplicitin the erotic triangleis to risk subversion of the homosocial bond which the sonnets neverthelessmanage, throughmanipulationsof space-timemetaphors,to keep in place. At the conclusion of thischapter Sedgwicksummarizesher argument-a summaryworthparaphrasingto give a sense of her project's conceptual complexity. 1. An erotic triangle at firstappears to be symmetricalregarding both relations "between genders and between homoand hetero- social or -sexual bonds." 2. That symmetry deceptive beis cause of veryreal differences men's and women's access to power, and in because oppositional terms frequentlysuppress or gloss over relations actually based on hierarchy.3. This lack of symmetry disguised by a is projection of the characteristics each gender onto spacial or temporal of figureswhich seem to be comparable but whichactuallymask relationsof



dominance and subordinationand also refuse easy translationinto accurate readings of latent ideology. 4. The androgynous male who seems to contributes participateequally in masculine and femininecharacteristics to "the fictionof gender symmetry" actuallyshows us the fictiveness but of such symmetry. The relationsbetween sexual bonds and power re5. lations is always "intensively structured"but also highlyvariable withregard to timeand place. Our conclusionsabout these patternsfunctionfor can contributeto our understandingof other moone momentin history ments,but only comparatively. The Country Wifein chapter three is Sedgwick's analysis of Wycherley's equally valuable. Sedgwick points out that cuckoldry,which involvesthe actingout of a sexual bond (but one whichis performedby one man upon another through the body of a woman) foregrounds heterosexual love "chieflyas a strategy homosocial desire." Men can continue to particiof pate "in the sum of masculine power" even if this act resultsin the degradation of one member of the masculine partybecause women continue to be exchanged as property, although as property "of a labile and Wife thatHorner, is dangerous sort."What fascinatesus about The Country unlike Sparkish and Pinchwife,can manipulate the rules of the symbolic circulationof male power through women's bodies because he is willing in to risk this lability.He feigns powerlessnessand feminization the very momenthe is seizingcontrolover the system sexual exchange thatleads of to masteryover other men. Sparkish, on the other hand, fails to reach this position of masterybecause he is too obvious about his desire to circulateany women in his "possession" to gain power, while Pinchwifeis completelyobsessed by the possibility being cuckolded and is thrallto of that category. Horner, the man who seizes the role of male androgyne, who stands in what appears to be a "symmetrical relationhalfway between apex of power. In conmen and women" is actuallyat the asymmetrical Wife cluding this analysis Sedgwick notes that the women in The Country are compulsorily involved in male homosocial bonds and thatthese bonds occur in a contextof homosexual abstemiousness-in the absence, thatis, of any direct contact between men's genitals. Despite a reliance on hierarchy,cuckoldry,as a structureof desire, neverthelessprolongs the homosocial bond-not as a moment of brotherhood,but as a harbingerof exaggerated masteryand required subordinationbetween men. In her chapter on Sterne's A SentimentalJourney Sedgwick introducesa new historicalvalence. Now the familybecomes available as the sentieven mental context for power relations which seem, in their geniality, more instrumentaland manipulative than those in the sonnets or The Country Wife.Sedgwick describes thisnew mode of power as "imperialism with a baby face" and analyzes the "glamour of familial pathos" which in settlesover men's designs for self-empowerment eighteenthand nineteenth centurynovels. In this and later chapters class becomes a more importanttermin the analysisof an exchange of masculine power. Sedg-



wick notes, for example, that working folk are "pastoralized" and the expropriated for bourgeouis ends by the narratorof a A Senaristocracy The mobilizationof a new narrativecelebratingthe raJourney. timental a paciously privatizedbourgeouis familybecomes one way of instituting economic as new and more delicatelypainfulmisogyny well as an explicitly mode of bonding between men. TenSinner, of The chapters that followon Hogg's Confessions aJustified Dickens' Esmond, Eliot'sAdamBede,Thackeray'sHenry nyson'sThePrincess, Our Mutual Friend and Edwin Drood, and on the English response to Whitman yield even greater conceptual treasures. Eve KosofskySedgMen is so rich and strangethatit should help criticalstudies wick'sBetween Men not only transforms go througha much needed sea change. Between of our interpretations a number of beloved literarytexts but begins to change our archetypesof reading as well. Sedgwick shows how triangular relationshipsinvolvingthe exchange and degradation of women have become a central and destructiveparadigm in our lives as well as in the homosocial divigationsof English literature.Afterreading her book one understands with greater fiercenesswhy Monique Wittigis adamant in obsessed, we should conthat,if we must be geometrically Les Guerilleres sider changing our logos of desire from the triangleto the circle: "The women say that the feminariesgive pride of place to the symbolsof the the ring, the 0, the sphere. They say that this circle,the circumference, series of symbolshas provided them with a guideline to decipher a collectionof legends theyhave found in the library. . ."(45).
Harvard University PATRICIA S. YAEGER

and Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, eds., Rhetoric Form:Deconat struction Yale. of Norman: University Oklahoma Press, 1985. xii + 255 pages. and According to its editors,Rhetoric Formis the resultof a conferenceon "ContemporaryGenre Theory and the Yale School" held at the University of Oklahoma in 1984. The genre under consideration here is that of of theory;the "school" evaluated is associated withan institution literary higher learning in New Haven by dint of the fact that the three critics and Formfocuses its attention-de Man, Hartman, upon whom Rhetoric and Miller-teach or did teach there. Harold Bloom is the odd man out in the collection because, the editors argue, "[h]is absence is our tacit importantin American acknowledgmentthat,while his work is forcefully it criticism, does not share with de Man, Miller and Hartman, the 'ends' of deconstructionwe are describinghere. Derrida's 'influence' is less apparent in his work; and the kind of temporalitywe are attemptingto articulatehere is more simplyin Bloom the 'misreading'of predecessors rather than 'errors' inherent in time dialectically conceived as 'monu-