Eve Sedgwick's essay White glasses' started out, she says, as an intended obituary for her friend Michael Lynch, who was dying of AIDS. But in the course of writing the obituary Lynch (temporarily) recovers, and Sedgwick discovers that she has breast cancer. Though the obituary is a text of mourning, melancholia is the operative psychoanalytic mechanism at work in this essay. Melancholia, far more than the mechanisms of mourning, suggests a resistance to separation, a self- consciousness about the formulation of the text, that is, about writing, and also an investment in art and writing as a mechanism that might prevent or protect against loss. Through the melancholic gestures of introjection, and also, this essay argues, incorporation, she attempts to sustain the dying Lynch in her text and at the same time, talismanically, to sustain herself. Through an identification with Lynch as a gay man, by way of his white glasses, Sedgwick metonymically incorporates his HIV through the mirror illness of her own breast cancer. Finally, the essay argues that the white glasses, melancholically incorporated, function as a fetish meant to ward off death, at least in the text. Textually, the melancholia that functions as a resistance to loss can be productive rather than debilitating.
- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick