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Opacity and the Closet

Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol

2012
Author:

Nicholas de Villiers

Opacity and the Closet

Looking beyond the closet at the lives and works of renowned queer public figures

Opacity and the Closet interrogates the viability of the metaphor of “the closet” when applied to three important queer figures in postwar American and French culture: philosopher Michel Foucault, literary critic Roland Barthes, and pop artist Andy Warhol. Nicholas de Villiers proposes a new approach to these cultural icons that accounts for the queerness of their works and public personas.

In a significant contribution to a growing body of work on queer ethics and subjectivity, Opacity and the Closet describes the tactics of disappearance and latency so crucial to survival in the postwar period. Attending to minor genres such as the fragment and the interview, Nicholas de Villiers traces the careers of some unlikely queer heroes—shy, matte, neutral figures who did not so much refuse the closet as suspend it.

Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

Opacity and the Closet interrogates the viability of the metaphor of “the closet” when applied to three important queer figures in postwar American and French culture: the philosopher Michel Foucault, the literary critic Roland Barthes, and the pop artist Andy Warhol. Nicholas de Villiers proposes a new approach to these cultural icons that accounts for the queerness of their works and public personas.

Rather than reading their self-presentations as “closeted,” de Villiers suggests that they invent and deploy productive strategies of “opacity” that resist the closet and the confessional discourse associated with it. Deconstructing binaries linked with the closet that have continued to influence both gay and straight receptions of these intellectual and pop celebrities, de Villiers illuminates the philosophical implications of this displacement for queer theory and introduces new ways to think about the space they make for queerness.

Using the works of Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol to engage each other while exploring their shared historical context, de Villiers also shows their queer appropriations of the interview, the autobiography, the diary, and the documentary—forms typically linked to truth telling and authenticity.

Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Opacity and the Closet

Nicholas de Villiers is assistant professor of English and film at the University of North Florida.

Opacity and the Closet

In a significant contribution to a growing body of work on queer ethics and subjectivity, Opacity and the Closet describes the tactics of disappearance and latency so crucial to survival in the postwar period. Attending to minor genres such as the fragment and the interview, Nicholas de Villiers traces the careers of some unlikely queer heroes—shy, matte, neutral figures who did not so much refuse the closet as suspend it.

Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

Beyond the fresh and highly original studies of these three iconic queer intellectuals, the book’s most vital contribution to queer studies will be the theory of queer opacity.

Lambda Literary

De Villiers brings out the philosophical implications of this displacement for queer theory and introduces new ways to think about the space that these three men created for “queerness”.

Reviews by Amos Lassen (blog)

A must read for anyone interested in textual analysis, self-disclosure, cultural studies, and queer theory. Summing Up: Highly recommended.

CHOICE

Opacity and the Closet

Contents

Preface. Bartleby's Queer Formula
Introduction. Opacities: Queer Strategies

1. Confessions of a Masked Philosopher: Anonymity and Identification in Foucault and Guibert
2. Matte Figures: Roland Barthes's Ethics of Meaning
3. "What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?" Warhol's Opacity
4. Unseen Warhol/Seeing Barthes
5. Andy Warhol Up-Tight: Warhol's Effects
Conclusion. The Interview as Multi-Mediated Object

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Opacity and the Closet

UMP blog - The Amicable Return of Roland Barthes

Almost every journalist I’ve read who invokes Roland Barthes’s most famous and commonly assigned essay, “The Death of the Author,” gets it wrong. She or he always thinks that pointing out the survival of the significance of authors is enough to disprove Barthes’s claims. It is important to recognize that before Barthes’s thesis could congeal into a maxim, he shifted his position and began to imagine the “amicable return of the author.” We are now faced with the ironic problem of the literal death of the author Roland Barthes, and speculations about his “intentions” regarding the still continuing posthumous publication of his work. In “The posthumous life of Roland Barthes,” Éric Marty pictures the special ring of hell reserved for “the posthumous author,” a “fate” whereby Barthes’s critics manage to reduce his writing to the implicit confessions of a closeted homosexual, especially his posthumously published Incidents. Editor François Wahl justified this publication seven years after Barthes’s death by the fact that the manuscript was evidently prepared for publication, and Barthes had published an essay in Tel Quel, “Deliberation,” in which he considered whether it was worth keeping a journal with a view to publication, and included excerpts from two diaries.

Read the full article.