Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain
To what extent did people think they could identify an 'obvious' sodomite before the construction of the homosexual as a type of person during the latter part of the nineteenth century? What role did secrecy and denial play in relation to the visual expression of same-sex desire before the term 'the closet' came into widespread use in the latter part of the twentieth century? And what, therefore, did sodomites/homosexuals/gays/queers look like in Britain in 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2000? Could they be spotted mincing down the street? Or were such as these just the flamboyant few whose presence conveniently drew attention away from the many others who wanted to appear 'normal'? These issues are not peripheral to the struggle of the last several decades for individual self-determination and self-expression. It was this set of cultural constructions that the pioneering writer Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009) attacked in her book Epistemology of the Closet as representing 'the defining structure for gay oppression in this century'. This book represents a visual culture counterpart to Sedgwick's study and aims, through the use of a series of interdisciplinary case-studies, to explore both the pre-history of the closet since the eighteenth century and its evolution through to the present day. Chapters explore key moments and issues within the British cultural experience and make pioneering use of a wide range of source materials ranging from art to fashion, literature, philosophy, theology, film and archival records.
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