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I feel sorry for sex

Erin Maglaque: Lauren Berlant’s Maximalism, 18 May 2023

On the Inconvenience of Other People 
by Lauren Berlant.
Duke, 238 pp., £21.99, September 2022, 978 1 4780 1845 2
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... In academia,’ Lauren Berlant wrote, ‘reputation is gossip about who had the ideas.’ Berlant had all the good ones: about sentimentality in American culture; about the place of sex and intimacy in public life; about what it feels like to live in a fraying world. Berlant taught English at Chicago from 1984 until their death in 2021 (Berlant used the non-binary pronoun in professional life ...

Promises, Promises

Erin Maglaque: The Love Plot, 21 April 2022

Love: A History in Five Fantasies 
by Barbara Rosenwein.
Polity, 220 pp., £20, October 2021, 978 1 5095 3183 7
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... is another person’s person. Methodology is necessary, of course, but as the cultural theorist Lauren Berlant writes, ‘there is nothing more alienating than having one’s pleasures disputed by someone with a theory.’Rosenwein has identified five central ‘fantasies’ of love that have had particular staying power, even as their meanings have ...

Critics in the Sky

Emily Witt: Sheila Heti’s New Cosmology, 21 April 2022

Pure Colour 
by Sheila Heti.
Harvill Secker, 216 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78730 280 8
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... disappoint her: the love, work and money she had expected will not arrive. She suffers from what Lauren Berlant called ‘cruel optimism’ – a condition where ‘something you desire is actually an obstacle to your own flourishing.’ ‘Nothing would be as we hoped it would be,’ Heti writes, ‘here in the first draft of existence.’ The sun ...

Learning My Lesson

Marina Warner, 19 March 2015

... tightly into a neoliberal regime.’ Gill is describing an instance of what the American scholar Lauren Berlant calls ‘cruel optimism’. People open themselves to exploitation when the sense of self-worth that derives from doing something they believe in comes up against a hierarchical authority that is secretive, arbitrary and ruthless. Cruel ...

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