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Work and Love are Impossible to Tell Apart: The Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers

Post contributed by Laura Micham, Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and Curator

Photograph of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. She is wearing a black top and pants, with a gold necklace with a large pendant. She is standing in a gallery that features fabric sculptures in the shape of bodies without heads, arms, or feet.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick at an exhibition of her artwork titled “In the Bardo,” at Stony Brook University, The State University of New York, 1999. Photographed by H.A. Sedgwick.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture is pleased to announce that the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers are now available and open for research. Sedgwick (1950-2009) was a poet, artist, literary critic, and teacher. As a faculty member in the English Department at Duke from 1988-1997, her work helped establish this institution as an intellectual leader in the critical study of sexuality.

Sedgwick is best known as one of the founders of the field of Queer Theory, a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s. Her call for reparative work and for reading practices grounded in affect and performance have transformed our understandings of intimacy, identity, and politics. She published several groundbreaking books such as Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985), Epistemology of the Closet (1990), and Tendencies (1993). Her works and her collection reflect an interest in a range of issues including queer performativity; experimental critical writing; the works of Marcel Proust; non-Lacanian psychoanalysis; artists’ books; Buddhism and pedagogy; and material culture, especially textiles and texture.

handmade purple vase, white with some purple accents.
Hand-built purple ceramic vessel by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ca. 2001. Photographed by Kevin Ryan.

The Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers are comprised of 130 linear feet of materials that document Sedgwick’s scholarly career, her artistic expression, and her personal life. Researchers will find Sedgwick’s writings and speeches as well as the writings of others; her notebooks and calendars; research, teaching, and activism files; event and travel files; correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia; legal, medical, and financial materials; and books and other published material. The collection also includes Sedgwick’s art such as works on paper, textile, clay, glass, ceramic, and other works which are currently being carefully housed by our conservation department.

The Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers join an extensive body of collections documenting the work of theorists, poets, and writers such as Kathy Acker, Dorothy Allison, Ann Barr Snitow, Chris Kraus, Kate Millett, Robin Morgan, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Alix Kates Shulman, and Meredith Tax.

In order to facilitate the use of the collection, the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Foundation is generously funding research travel grants. In addition to supporting academic research aimed at producing publications and dissertations, the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Grants will support a wide range of other creative projects such as educational initiatives, exhibitions, films, multimedia products, and other artistic works. The grants are administered by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. The deadline for the first grant cycle is April 30, 2022. For more information please visit our Grants and Fellowships site.

Excerpt of a handwritten draft written on yellow legal pad.
“It is speech and visibility that give us any political power we have. It is speech and visibility that apparently make us threatening.” Detail from a manuscript essay by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick that was published in 2014 with the title, “Censorship & Homophobia,” by Gullotine, New York, NY. The publisher, printer, and binder, Sarah McCarry, discovered the manuscript during her work helping to prepare the collection to come to Duke.

It is truly thrilling to us in the Rubenstein Library, as well as to faculty across the university, that Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s papers have come back to Duke. During her time here she left an indelible mark on our community and her work continues to have a significant effect in shaping the lives and thought of many people.

What I’m proudest of, I guess, is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.
– Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

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