Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol
by Nicholas De Villiers
University of Minnesota Press
Paperback, 978081667571543, 244 pp.
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.
From a review by Chase Dimock
De Villiers’ three case studies on practitioners of queer opacity, French philosophers Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes, and American art icon Andy Warhol, have all greatly influenced the study and expression of sexuality in contemporary culture. Yet, none of the three ever fully came out of the closet in any conventional sense. All three engaged openly with gay themes in their work, and Warhol never denied his sexuality, but none of the three ever became openly gay self-identified voices of the community. It would be convenient and easy, as many biographers and cultural critics have done, to fault these men for not declaring their identity according to contemporary gay cultural standards set long after their deaths or to perform some one-size-fits-all, pop psychoanalysis to locate the source of shame or guilt that we have been taught to believe is the source of our sexual discretion. But instead, De Villiers’ concept of queer opacity allows us to see the sexualities of these men as they truly were expressed by widening our narrow narrative of sexuality to encompass the peripheries where the genius of these men flourished. Instead of seeing them as closeted, De Villiers praises their queer opacity for inventing new methods of queer expression and transgression.