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Sex, or the Unbearable

Sex, or the Unbearable

Paperback Theory Q

By (author) Lauren Berlant, By (author) Lee Edelman

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  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 168 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 228mm x 6mm | 240g
  • Publication date: 25 February 2014
  • Publication City/Country: North Carolina
  • ISBN 10: 0822355949
  • ISBN 13: 9780822355946
  • Sales rank: 135,508

Product description

Sex, or the Unbearable is a dialogue between Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, two of our leading theorists of sexuality, politics, and culture. In juxtaposing sex and the unbearable they don't propose that sex is unbearable, only that it unleashes unbearable contradictions that we nonetheless struggle to bear. In Berlant and Edelman's exchange, those terms invoke disturbances produced in encounters with others, ourselves, and the world, disturbances that tap into threats induced by fears of loss or rupture as well as by our hopes for repair. Through virtuoso interpretations of works of cinema, photography, critical theory, and literature, including Lydia Davis' story "Break It Down" (reprinted in full here), Berlant and Edelman explore what it means to live with negativity, with those divisions that may be irreparable. Together, they consider how such negativity affects politics, theory, and intimately felt encounters. But where their critical approaches differ, neither hesitates to voice disagreement. Their very discussion - punctuated with moments of frustration, misconstruction, anxiety, aggression, recognition, exhilaration, and inspiration - enacts both the difficulty and the potential of encounter, the subject of this unusual exchange between two eminent critics and close friends.

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Author information

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of "Cruel Optimism," "The Female Complaint," and "The Queen of America Goes to Washington City," all also published by Duke University Press.Lee Edelman is Fletcher Professor of English Literature at Tufts University. He is the author of "L'impossible Homosexuel"; "No Future," also published by Duke University Press; and "Homographesis."

Review quote

"Sex, or the Unbearable will supersede the unenlivening debate that has, in recent years, opposed optimists and pessimists in the queer academic community. This important and original book, a dialogue between Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, reformulates the terms of the debate as a serious and profound reflection on negativity. Berlant and Edelman's penetrating and courageous encounter significantly raises the level of debate in contemporary cultural studies." - Leo Bersani, Emeritus Professor of French, University of California, Berkeley "In Sex, or the Unbearable, Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman give a gripping and compelling seminar on reading, on the everyday dramas of unbecoming, undoing, opening up and breaking down, and on love and sex. Relationality, they argue and demonstrate, is always a risk because in all encounters and conversations, and certainly in this one, the subject is misrecognized, unheard, and never in control. The risk, they show here, is always worth taking." - Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure "The good news is that theory is alive. In a dialogue characterized by precision and generosity, two key theorists of sex, affect, aesthetics, and politics imagine the possibilities for the critical transformation of the social world. The bad news is that, for these brilliant, searching anti-pastoralists, none of the old fixes - psychic reparation or political hope - will do. Which is to say: there is no bad news. Sex, or the Unbearable testifies to the political significance of negativity and to the ongoing force of epistemology in queer studies." - Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History "Berlant and Edelman's three-act dialogue is wonderfully intriguing, especially in regard to how the dialogue itself bears witness to the intellectual process of "thinking through" in the dialogic form." - Lambada Literary Review

Table of contents

Preface vii 1. Sex without Optimism 1 2. What Survives 35 3. Living with Negativity 63 Afterwords 119 Appendix. "Break It Down" / Lydia Davis 127 Acknowledgments 135 References 137 Index 141