Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Delivers “Dialogue on Love” to Packed Auditorium

An overflow crowd filled every seat and nearly every standing space at The Graduate Center, CUNY’s Proshanksy Auditorium on December 11 , to honor Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who del ivered the seventh annual David R. Kessler Lecture. Sedgwick, Distinguished Professor of English at The Graduate Center, CUNY, is one of the foremost scholars of lesbian and gay stu dies; her 1990 book Epistemology of the Closet is a founding text of queer theory.

Her Kessler Lecture, entitled “A Dialogue on Love,” was drawn from her forthcoming, autobiographical therapy journal. The talk neatly paired off Sedgwick’s own memories – for example: of childhood, of her recent battles with cancer, of retelling these events to her therapist – with those of her therapist, Shannon, whose notes from their multi-year analytic relationship were woven into her talk. (In this, the literary model for Sedgwick’s talk was Platonic dialogues, in which the historic Socrates fades behind the figure conjured by Plato.) If Sedgwick’s talk began with herself, it did not settle there. Moving out from remembrances of her family and recollections of self, Sedgwick offered a sustained and playful meditation on ch ildhood, family, and the traumatic and not-so traumatic differences that comprise a queer life. The Kessler lecture is an annual event established by David R. Kessler, a San Francisco-based psychi atrist and activist, honoring individuals who have made, in Kessler’s words, “substantial contributions to the expression or understanding of gay and lesbian life.” The invited lecturers are chosen by a special committee drawn from the CLAGS Board of Directors. Previous recipients include Joan Nestle, Edmund White, Barbara Smith, Monique Wittig, Esther Newton, and Samuel Delany. Sedgwick’s talk was preceded by three brief testimonials by CLAGS board member Jose Munoz (New York Universi ty); Cindy Patton (Emory University); and Michele Wallace (The Graduate Center, CUNY and City College).

Ann Pellegrini
CLAGS Board Member