Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol
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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: the philosopher Michel Foucault, the literary critic Roland Barthes, and the 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.
Rather than reading their self-presentations as “closeted,” de Villiers suggests that they invent and deploy productive strategies of “opacity” that resist the closet and the confessional discourse associated with it. Deconstructing binaries linked with the closet that have continued to influence both gay and straight receptions of these intellectual and pop celebrities, de Villiers illuminates the philosophical implications of this displacement for queer theory and introduces new ways to think about the space they make for queerness.
Using the works of Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol to engage each other while exploring their shared historical context, de Villiers also shows their queer appropriations of the interview, the autobiography, the diary, and the documentary—forms typically linked to truth telling and authenticity.
out—everyone was ready for some articulation, and Paul was nothing if not articulate.”88 Warhol’s concern for “articulateness” actually speaks to a broader matter of sensitivity to speech itself within POPism. Ivan Karp was “so good with words,” and “WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?” 109 Warhol parenthetically remarks, “(As I said, that was the way he really talked).”89 Much of POPism’s role as memoir has to do with capturing the style and sound of people’s speech. There is great
night before and logging cash business expenses he had incurred in the process, this account of daily activity came to have the larger function of letting Andy examine life. In a word, it was a diary.”125 Rather than following this movement from the quotidian and material to the personal and the reﬂective, I would like to stay at the level of the material concern of the Diaries. Indeed, what is so striking to the reader is the meticulous accounting of every expense, including cabs and phone
Warhol” and “PKD-A” mean that they continue to work as linguistic machines after the deaths of their authors. In Freud’s “The Uncanny,” he references Ernst Jentsch’s observation that uncanny impressions arise out of an ambiguity between human and automaton (like the doll Olympia in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman, or the androids in Ridley Scott’s 1982 ﬁlm Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel).41 Yet Freud quickly dismisses this as mere intellectual uncertainty (lacking the hallmark of
and disappearance of Warhol’s “leftovers,” which is so perfectly framed in Philosophy, thus begs the question of the relation of these problems of Space, “Atmosphere,” and Time to queer subjectivity. In Andy Warhol: The Complete Picture, performance studies scholar Peggy Phelan suggests that in Warhol’s art “there was a theatricality in the disappearance” and that in drawing attention to his removal of himself, his absenting of himself, Warhol kept the desire for his appearances going. This
sustained the Warhol mystique into the new millennium.”11 Like Cresap, my goal has been to explain how and why the “mystique” of Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol has continued into the new millennium, where the media’s desire for “full access and 360degree disclosure” is perhaps stronger than ever. As we saw in Barthes’s comments on the interview wherein the journalist is a kind of “cop who likes you” (precisely the role that Frost attempts in the Frost/Nixon interviews), the question is how to