Virtuous Vice

Homoeroticism and the Public Sphere

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: March 2000

Author: Eric O. Clarke

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Politics > Political Theory

In this daring study of queer life and the public sphere, Eric O. Clarke examines the effects of inclusion within public culture. Departing from studies that emphasize homophobia and its mechanisms of exclusion, Virtuous Vice details how mainstream efforts to represent queers affirmatively continually fall short of full democratic enfranchisement. Clarke draws on contemporary writings along with late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and European cultural history to investigate how concepts of value, representation, and homoeroticism have interacted and circulated in the West since the Enlightenment.
Examining the role of eroticism in citizenship and why only normalizing
constructions of homosexuality enable inclusion, Clarke reconsiders the work of Habermas and Foucault in relation to contemporary visibility politics, Kant’s moral and political theory, Marx’s analysis of value, and the sexualized dynamics of the Victorian cultural public sphere. The juxtaposition of Habermas with Foucault reveals the surprising value of reading the former in the context of queer politics and the usefulness of the theory of the public sphere for understanding contemporary identity politics and the visibility politics of the 1990s. Examining how a host of nonsexual factors impinge historically upon the constitution of sexual identities and practices, Clarke negotiates the relation between questions of publicity and categories of value. Discussions of television sitcoms (such as Ellen), marketing techniques, authenticity, and literary culture add to this daring analysis of visibility politics.
As a critique of the claim that equal representation of gays and lesbians necessarily constitutes progress, this significant intervention into social theory will find enthusiastic readers in the fields of Victorian, cultural, literary, and gay and lesbian studies, as well as other fields engaged with categories of identity.


“[A] stimulating and thought-provoking examination of the queer politics of citizenship.” — Jon Binnie , Sexualities

“[Clarke] exhibits an extraordinary talent—perhaps even a gift—for explaining the most complex and difficult concepts in an easily comprehensible manner.” — B. R. Burg , Choice

“[S]mart, theoretically sophisticated. . . . Powerful . . .” — Andrew Elfenbein, Eighteenth-Century Studies

“[S]tunning. . . . enormously compelling. . . .” — Amy Villarejo , GLQ

“The intensifying conflict between sex-radical queers and morally righteous gay citizens has lead to the ruination of contemporary sexual politics. Eric Clarke shows the way through the impasse with his viciously sharp analyses, which display the virtues of theoretical precision and historically informed scholarship. His book will transform how we think about sexuality and citizenship, about visibility, democracy, and the public sphere.” — Douglas Crimp, editor of AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism

“This exceptionally intelligent study makes crucial contributions to ongoing conundrums about the connections between capitalism and gay identity. With remarkable sophistication, Clarke is able to connect the abstractions of Kant’s categorical imperative to the everyday pleasures of watching Ellen come out on TV. A powerful and sure-to-be influential book.” — Ann Cvetkovich, author of Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism

"Virtuous Vice is an ambitious, subtle, and revelatory book, establishing Clarke as a major voice in queer theory and in social theory generally. It should be required reading for anyone interested in Habermas or Foucault, or in the complex issues of contemporary sexual politics." — Michael Warner, author of The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eric O. Clarke is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Homoeroticism and the Public Sphere 1

1 Visibility at the Limits of Inclusion 29

2 Autonomy and Conformity 68

3 The Citizen's Sexual Shadow 101

4 Inseminating the Orient, Disseminating Identity 126

5 Shelley's Heart 148

Epilogue: Beyond Tolderance 169

Notes 173

Bibliography 215

Index 229
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2513-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2477-5
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