Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading; or,
You're So Paranoid, You Probably Think
This Introduction Is about You
ovel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction came together unprogram-
Invited by the journal Studies in the Novel to edit a spe-
cial issue, I asked forty or so writers I admire whether they could
find room on their agendas to write something that would, loosely speak-
ing, convene the rubrics "novel" and "queer." I felt more than fortunate
in the response, when these startlingly imaginative essays started tum-
bling in at a rate that soon overfilled the journal-and didn't slow down
even then.
Unmistakably the essays pointed toward a book. But excited by the
force, the originality, and in many cases the beauty of these pieces, I still
found it difficult to articulate more than a negative sense ofwhat kind of
a moment they might collectively represent in queer theory or in literary
criticism. Clearly and queerly enough, they share a relaxed, unseparatist
hypothesis of the much to be gained by refraining from a priori oppo-
sitions between queer texts (or authors) and non-queer ones, or female
ones and male. In fact, the list of damaging a priori oppositions to which
these essays quietly, collectively find alternative approaches is very im-
pressive: the authors transmit new ways of knowing that human beings
are also machines, are also animals; that an ethic or aesthetic of truthtell-
ing need not depend on any reified notion oftruth; that the materiality of
human bodies, of words, and of economic production may misrepresent
but cannot simply eclipse one another; that pleasure, grief, excitement,
boredom, satisfaction are the substance of politics rather than their an-
tithesis; that affect and cognition are not very distant processes; that
visual perception need not be conceptually isolated from the other four
bodily senses; that gender differentiation is crucial to human experience
but in no sense coextensive with it; that it's well to attend intimately to
literary texts, not because their transformative energies either transcend
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