Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1997


Pivoting on the essay on enlightenment as a central text and referring to other thematically relevant writings by Kant, this study qualifies the view that the Kantian concepts of enlightenment and the public sphere are represented solely in a neutral, disinterested manner as open and democratic forums for all men and women. By recovering unconscious inscriptions of gender, sexuality, and class in contradistinction to the dominant "democratic" reception of Kant, this essay shows how infrastructural sexual dynamics co-articulate the surface discourses of enlightenment, the public and private spheres, and the beautiful and the sublime. As non-cognitive structures, these discourses inscribe corporophobia, orality, and paranoia, as well as a particular interplay between the heterosocial and the homosocial. While not minimizing Kant's contribution to a liberal, critical democracy, one can show that Kant's writings and their receptions are also unwitting missionaries of some complex counter-enlightenment tendencies.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2012, University of Pennsylvania Press. This article first appeared in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation: 38:2 (1997), 171-190.

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