First published in 1985, Between Men challenged old ways of reading while articulating critical byways for two emerging disciplines. Its iconoclastic approach gave queer studies and gender studies scholars further reason to crack open the canon, scrutinize its contents, and add unconventional texts on sound theoretical grounds. Striking a devastating blow to the hegemony of heteronormative critique, it opened not only literature but also politics, religion, society, and culture to broader investigations of power, desire, and sex.
Between Men still has much more to tell us, and much work left to do. It has kept pace with Western society's evolving ideas of and debates on gender and sexuality and provides insight into its recent conservative and religious turns. With a new foreword by Wayne Koestenbaum emphasizing the work's ongoing importance, Between Men begins with Shakespeare's Sonnets and moves through Wycherley's The Country Wife, Sterne's A Sentimental Journey, Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Tennyson's The Princess, Eliot's Adam Bede, Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., and Dickens's Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, among many other texts and critiques. Sedgwick's landmark book remains a key analysis of homosocial desire in Western literature for any reader curious about the subject's claim to legitimacy.