Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Robert Reid-Pharr

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Psychology


depressive, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Experimental Critical Writing, Melanie Klein, Queer, Silvan Tomkins


My dissertation attempts to answer the question: What exactly does a reparative reading look like? The question refers to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's provocative essay on paranoid and reparative reading practices, in which Sedgwick describes how the hermeneutics of suspicion has become central to a whole range of intellectual projects across the humanities and social sciences. Criticizing this dominant critical mode for its political blindness and unintended replication of repressive social structures, Sedgwick looks for an alternative in what she calls reparative reading . Past attempts to expand on Sedgwick's brief yet suggestive remarks regarding reparative reading have foundered due to a lack of critical language. My dissertation is an attempt to develop this language. Retiring the term reparative , I return to the figure of the depressive within the works of psychoanalyst Melanie Klein and experimental psychologist Silvan Tomkins, as well as Sedgwick herself, and trace the recursive contours of a depressive mode. I demonstrate how such a recursive mode is responsive to its own contingency and changing environment and how it offers alternatives to the normalizing teleologies and assumptions of paranoid critical practices. Experimental in form and method, my dissertation enacts the same depressive mode it purports to describe, ultimately locating the depressive within particular forms, or scenes, of queer writing.