Born: May 2, 1950
Died: April 12, 2009
Ohio connection: Birth
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was born May 2, 1950, in Dayton, Ohio, to Leon Kosofsky (an engineer) and Rita Goldstein Kosofsky (high school teacher). She had two siblings, a brother and a sister. During her childhood the family moved to Bethesda, Maryland when her father accepted a position with NASA. She attended Cornell University where she met and married Hal Sedgwick in 1969. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, summa cum laude at Cornell University in 1971. She went onto Yale University to earn a Master’s of Philosophy in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1975.
From the late 1970s until the late 1980s she taught at Hamilton College, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she produced works on classic authors, using close reading to uncover submerged plots. During this time she completed her influential anthology Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire (1985). From 1988 she was a professor in the English department of Duke University in North Carolina. During this time she wrote Epistemology of the Closet (1990), which argued that Western culture could be understood only by critically dissecting the socially constructed concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality.
Sedgwick was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991. Her book A Dialogue on Love (1999) recounts the therapy she undergoes for her feelings toward death, her depression, and her gender uncertainty before her mastectomy and during chemotherapy. She shared advice drawn from her experiences of the illness in a column, Off My Chest, for a women’s cancer magazine. Her other passions included writing poetry – she published an anthology, Fat Art, Thin Art (1995). Born Jewish, Sedgwick was a practicing Buddhist before her death (from breast cancer) at age 58, on April 12, 2009.
Mellon fellow, 1976-78; Grants from Kirkland Endowment, 1980, 1981; Shared Crompton-Noll Award in Gay and Lesbian Studies from Gay and Lesbian Caucus in the Modern Languages, Modern Language Association of America, 1984, for the article “Homophobia, Misogyny, and Capital: The Example of Our Mutual Friend”; Guggenheim fellow, 1987-88; The Brudner Prize at Yale, 2002.