WHEN I FIRST HEARD THAT Duke University Press would be putting out a collection of the final writings of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick - one of the primary founders of the field known as queer theory, who died of breast cancer in 2009 - I first imagined a scrapbook-like volume of wild stray thoughts and posthumous revelations. Then, when I heard the collection was titled The Weather in Proust, and that it included all the unfinished writing Sedgwick had done in service of a critical study of Marcel Proust, I imagined it might be a swirling, dense, epic literary analysis, à la Walter Benjamin's 1,088 page The Arcades Project, the likes of which the world had never seen.
The slimmish, 215-page collection, edited by Jonathan Goldberg, is neither of the above. It is decidedly not a hodgepodge of odds and ends that Sedgwick left behind, but rather nine solid, finished-feeling essays on topics that preoccupied Sedgwick throughout her prolific career. These topics - which include webs of relation in Proust, affect theory, non-Oedipal models of psychology (especially those offered by Melanie Klein, Sandor Ferenczi, Michael Balint, Silvan Tomkins, and Buddhism), non-dualistic thinking and antiseparatisms of all kinds, and itinerant, idiosyncratic, profound meditations on depression, illness, textiles, queerness, and mortality - will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with Sedgwick's previous work, which includes the groundbreaking Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985), Epistemology of the Closet (1990), Tendencies (1993), and Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (2003).
But while a great deal here is familiar - indeed, many passages from the above books resurface, verbatim, throughout these pages - there is nothing rehashed about the project itself. To the contrary: For a writer whose prose (and thought) could often be astoundingly dense, circuitous, and lovingly (if sometimes frustratingly) devoted to articulating the farthest reaches of complexity, the overall effect of The Weather in Proust is one of great clarification and distillation. Indeed, for those unfamiliar with Sedgwick's work, I would recommend starting with The Weather in Proust and moving backward from there, as the volume offers an enjoyably compressed, coherent, and retrospective portrait of Sedgwick's principal preoccupations.
In his brief introduction, Goldberg tells us that the first five chapters of The Weather in Proustcomprise the writing Sedgwick had done toward a book on Proust that occupied her in the last few years of her life. It is good of him to let us know, for the range of these chapters is wide enough that one might never have guessed that they were all intended to be part of the same project. One can only imagine that Sedgwick's book on Proust, had it come to full fruition, would have profoundly challenged and expanded the notion of a monograph - not to mention raised the bar quite a bit higher for the "how Proust can change your life/my year spent reading Proust" genre.
With the exception of the opening chapter, which bears the title of the collection at large and remains focused on models of relationality and subjectivity in Proust (albeit via forays into the scientific notions of chaos and complexity theory, ancient Greek mysticism, and psychoanalysis), these first five chapters traverse an extremely wide plain, with P...