The Weather in Proust

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 37 color illustrations Published: December 2011

Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

The Weather in Proust gathers pieces written by the eminent critic and theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in the last decade of her life, as she worked toward a book on Proust. This book takes its title from the first essay, a startlingly original interpretation of Proust. By way of Neoplatonism, Buddhism, and the work of Melanie Klein, Sedgwick establishes the sense of refreshment and surprise that the author of the Recherche affords his readers. Proust also figures in pieces on the poetry of C. P. Cavafy, object relations, affect theory, and Sedgwick’s textile art practices. More explicitly connected to her role as a pioneering queer theorist are an exuberant attack against reactionary refusals of the work of Guy Hocquenghem and talks in which she lays out her central ideas about sexuality and her concerns about the direction of US queer theory. Sedgwick lived for more than a dozen years with a diagnosis of terminal cancer; its implications informed her later writing and thinking, as well as her spiritual and artistic practices. In the book’s final and most personal essay, she reflects on the realization of her impending death. Featuring thirty-seven color images of her art, The Weather in Proust offers a comprehensive view of Sedgwick’s later work, underscoring its diversity and coherence.


“For a writer whose prose (and thought) could often be astoundingly dense, circuitous, and lovingly (if sometimes frustratingly) devoted to articulating the farthest reaches of complexity, the overall effect of The Weather in Proust is one of great clarification and distillation. Indeed, for those unfamiliar with Sedgwick’s work, I would recommend starting with The Weather in Proust and moving backward from there, as the volume offers an enjoyably compressed, coherent, and retrospective portrait of Sedgwick’s principal preoccupations.” — Maggie Nelson, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Like all of [Sedgwick’s] writing, The Weather in Proust both contributes to theory and challenges what we actually mean when we theorize, or read and write theory. . . . The Weather in Proust ravishes in the flexibility of its theoretical energies, in essays on topics as surfacially different as Proustian weather, the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, Japanese textile practice, anality, and autism. . . . The delight of discovering Sedgwick’s own findings arises in part because the voice in these essays feels so lucidly sincere. Her writing feels true, a word which aptly comes from an Old English word meaning “loyal;” her writing feels loyal, both to itself and its readers.” — Michael D. Snediker, Theory & Event

“The Weather in Proust embodies Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s seemingly simple yet revolutionary claim that ‘people are different.’ It is grounded in her commitment to a critical taxonomy that refuses binarisms, that works in the space between two and infinity, whether it be of sexualities or affects, ‘kinds of people,’ or even ‘little gods,’ a practice she brilliantly argues that Marcel Proust’s writing, even its discussion of the weather, and C. P. Cavafy’s invocation of the periperformative, epitomize.” — Kathryn R. Kent, GLQ

“This posthumous collection of Sedgwick’s essays presents readers with a glittering kaleidoscope of ‘capacious concerns.’ Sedgwick, a pioneer in queer studies, shines as she contemplates Proust, textile art, and mortality in language that is challenging and exhilarating. . . . Engaging with Sedgwick will fill readers will wonder.” — Publishers Weekly

“This selection of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s unpublished papers and talks voers a wide range, from lively fragments of a projected book on Proust, to Cafavy, psychoanalysis, and Buddhism. The illuminate Segwick’s attempt to establish an epistemology of the individual subject. . . . Sedgwick’s wit is tonic. . . .” — Allen Thiher, TLS

“I was deeply moved by the book. It has much to offer to Proust scholars, scholars of queer studies, scholars (and skeptics) of psychoanalysis, and anyone concerned with how intellectual work might be made meaningfully continuous with the creative, political, and pedagogical practices of everyday life. Upon finishing the volume, I felt grief at the loss of this exceptionally gifted theorist, mixed with gratitude for the stunning body of work that Eve Sedgwick has left us—including The Weather in Proust.”  — Hannah Freed-Thall, MLN

“If Sedgwick found in emptiness a certain energy, a kind of ‘arising,’ then those of us who remain in the empty space she has left behind might be encouraged to take up The Weather in Proust when her absence touches us most acutely, to breathe in its atmosphere and bask in the warm climate of its thought.” — Gregory Tomso, American Literature

“It is an adventure and a privilege to read The Weather in Proust, but these readerly experiences are alloyed with a strong sense of sadness that this carefully edited and beautifully produced volume should be posthumous. . . . We might think of these collected pieces as the characteristically vibrant and multifarious ways in which Sedgwick came to the ‘realisation’ of her mortality.” — Adam Watt, Journal of Gender Studies

“In The Weather in Proust we find the bare, cold bones of Sedgwick’s creative structure. In the literal absence of her life, this book, like those before it, though differently, assures her unending powerful presence.” — Stephen M. Barber, Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society

“Fans of Sedgwick . . . will ?nd plenty to like in the ‘capacious’ grab bag that is The Weather in Proust. . . . [A] comprehensive sampling of her last work, and one fans of Sedgwick will cherish.” — Ryan Francis Murphy, Women's Studies

"It is a pleasure to revisit Sedgwick's foundational insights now and discover how indeed something about queer is inextinquishable. . . . This manuscript is not a 'final word' but rather a generous invitation to continue." — Nicolas de Villiers, Cultural Critique

The Weather in Proust is not just a random final collection of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s essays. It is a frank and flowing analysis of the conflict of pleasure and destruction that shapes our attachment to life; it is an account of the deities that artists invent to embody these dramatic life forces; and, perhaps above all, it is what she calls a ‘fantasy book,’ a stimulus to follow out affect beyond the conventions of thought. Like the artists and psychoanalysts whom Sedgwick seeks out, this work provides a ‘calm voice, so contagious and easy to internalize’ that ‘a new mental faculty’ emerges: through crystalline prose, clear-sighted formulations, and an unsurpassed aesthetic patience, Sedgwick’s engagement with sexuality, politics, and reading closely constitute a sublime teaching.” — Lauren Berlant, author of Cruel Optimism

“With breathtaking range and brilliance, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick once again, and in myriad ways, reminds us of the complex relationality of affective life. These extraordinary essays give life to her claim that something about queer is inextinguishable.” — Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, University of California, Berkeley


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950–2009) was Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of Epistemology of the Closet, Between Men, and A Dialogue on Love. Her books Touching Feeling; Tendencies; Fat Art, Thin Art; Novel Gazing; Gary in Your Pocket; and Shame and Its Sisters (co-edited with Adam Frank), are all also published by Duke University Press.

Jonathan Goldberg is Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Studies in Sexualities Program at Emory University. He is the author, most recently, of The Seeds of Things.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Editor's Introduction xiii

The Weather in Proust 1

Cavafy, Proust, and the Queer Little Gods 42

Making Things, Practicing Emptiness 69

Melanie Klein and the Difference Affect Makes 123

Affect Theory and Theory of Mind 144

Anality: News from the Front 166

Making Gay Meanings 183

Thinking through Queer Theory 190

Reality and Realization 206

Figure Credits 217

Index 219
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5158-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5144-3
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