The ontology of the closet

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Susan Ash

Second Advisor

Dr Nicola Kaye


This thesis argues that the “queer” identity politics from the early 1990s, read here through the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, have come to fruition in contemporary culture with results that need interrogating. I argue that male hetero/homosexual definition has become even more firmly dichotomised, with the “proliferation” of sexual identities more strongly afforded to heterosexual masculinity that appears to define itself ever more strongly against the “homosexual”. One of the contentions of this thesis is that Sedgwick’s model of “the epistemology of closet” has ontological commitments that remain implicit in her work, and furthermore that this aspect of Sedgwick’s work, a founding moment of queer theory, has been given less critical attention than her articulation of a proliferative queer identity politics. I attempt to refigure queer identity politics through a Lacanian focus on “sexual difference”, and argue that this philosophical frame is the more useful for understanding both Sedgwick’s model of the closet and the cultural and symbolic relationship between heterosexual and homosexual men. This becomes most apparent through a re-reading of Sedgwick’s use of the Gothic, with a closer focus on the “monster” as subject that, through Lacan’s work, looks very much like a homosexual man locked into a relationship of sexual difference with a heterosexual man. Ultimately, building on these arguments and a particular understanding of camp practice, I intend to show that “camp”, a particularly homosexual aesthetic, offers a model of an ethical relationship, subject-to-subject, which asks that we recognise the types of limitations placed on our culturally sexed identities through a relationship that Lacan would characterise as “love”, in the sense that for Lacan to love is “to give what one does not have”.

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