As Lindsay alerted me, two notable and amazing women died this week – and that their passing, and the significance of their lives and contributions may have been missed in the brouhaha surrounding #AmazonFail.
Judith F. Krug, founder of Banned Books Week, died of cancer in Evanston, IL. She was 69.
Ms. Krug was the director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. She also helped establish the Freedom to Read Foundation in 1969, an organization that in part helped defray litigation costs for freedom of speech cases.
Krug worked directly with librarians across the country who were engaged in censorship battles. She enlisted allies from fields that are affected by 1st Amendment attacks, such as publishers and journalists, said Robert Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Assn.
“She was concerned about the gamut of expression, so that people could go to the library and encounter the full marketplace of ideas,” Doyle said.
Banned Books Week is a huge event in the libraries around me, and it’s a little ironic that in the midst of what appeared to be corporate suppression of sexual books, the woman who pioneered Banned Books Week lost her fight with cancer. I try to remind myself when taking some heat for my luuuuuuurve™ of the romance that the act of reading a romance is in itself subversive, particularly on behalf of women who do not have the freedom to read fiction that contains frank and female-positive depictions of sexuality. Ms. Krug’s efforts and dedication remind everyone annually that our freedom to read is a delicate but essential freedom for which we ought to fight.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, pioneering theorist in feminist criticism, gender studies, and queer theory, died 12 April. She was 58.
Sedgwick was, in short, holy shit amazing with critical analysis of gender relations in text. Her book Epistemology of the Closet was … wait for it… wait for it… a seminal work in the field of queer studies, particularly because it analyzed marginalization of homosocial and homosexual desires and argued for the inclusion of all people on the “sexual spectrum” because without it, analysis of Western culture is “incomplete” and “damaged.”
Personally speaking. Segwick was part of the reason I long thought that romance novels ought to be held up to critical analysis, and also part of the reason I ran screaming out of grad school, never to return. In my course on feminist theory, we studied in particular the “Segwick triangle,” which posits that in most cases, male homosocial desire can only be expressed through the conduit of a woman. When our class was challenged to find examples of this theory, I immediately looked to popular culture, and the novels of Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught in particular, notably those that featured love triangles, competitive twins, and similar storylines.
When my paper was rejected by the professor on the grounds that I’d chosen an “unsuitable subject matter” for my analysis, I realized it was time to get the hell out of dodge. I left short of attaining my Master’s degree, and gave up any desire to get a PhD.
Sedgwick changed the way I looked at heterosexual relationships within the courtship rituals of romance novels, and I don’t think it’s possible to understate the powerful and indelible impact her scholarship has had not only on portrayals of sexuality in modern popular culture, but on the way in which we who read the layers of any text understand male, female, homo- and heterosexual relationships.