. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought

A Consultation

Hi! I’ve been writing books, and so this blog, which is a research blog, after all, has been languishing.  I imagine that, starting in June. I’ll post more often to retain and retrain focus, as I will be on an extended writing-for-deadline hiatus, researching a new book, letting things in. It’s exciting to be on the verge of a porousness that’s both deliberate and can’t be intended.  In the meantime I’ve been using my blabbing time doing some interviews (listed below) and, in concert with Katie Stewart, doing some writing exercises that I’ll also post some of here.  We’ll see where that work on the ordinary goes—maybe another little co-authored book.  In January a book I’ve written with/against Lee Edelman will appear from Duke:  Sex, or the Unbearable.  I like collaboration, it’s taxing and revealing, like villanelle-writing, which is also influencing the current work.

If one of this blog’s aims was to fold research space into the ongoing time-suck of administration, teaching, and advising, another aim has been to free up my writing so that the first response to it isn’t so often That’s hard. You have no idea how much background knowledge someone needs to get through a sentence of yours.  All sentences demand that we bring whatever we know to the encounter:  so much converges on even the most ordinary staging. Even frank writing requires a reckless leap of faith into a vastness of partial knowledge, which is why one cultivates aesthetic patience along with the courage for curiosity.  At the same time, though, one needs skills for making that leap worth it. I’ve spent my whole career learning how to help sentences hold something out there. But I’ve been bad at it, they’re right about that, desperate about what I don’t know about how much to explain, exemplify, rephrase or vary.  I’m curious about how to leaven and extend things. The struggle continues, as we say in many contexts.

At the same time, I don’t think that male theorists are asked nearly as often to lubricate the reading experience.  People who write from the bottom or the outside are always being asked to be pleasing, soothing, perky, comic or melodramatic, status-enhancing, and available. I can’t tell you how boring it is to write it and feel it again, again. Just this morning Claudia Rankine was telling me about collecting stories of the racial impasse, about her black friends’ encounters with vaguely well-intentioned ordinary white cluelessness and entitlement. The stories are at once too clear and already known and, though enraging, yet still confusing. But this is what happens, and we cycle through the voices of flat withholding, searing sarcasm, rage, whispering, exhaustion, p e d a g o g y, and consultation.

Consultation interests me as a genre of political vitality:  those phases when we check in with each other with an “am I crazy?” and “not again!” In the last year queer and feminist disbelief-consultation has really hepped up. For we have re-entered, during the hiatus of this blog writing, a new era of the old wedging of the political into women’s sexual and reproductive bodies. It is no longer plausible to make Janet Halley’s claim in Split Decisions that governmental feminism has won the battle, while the social is still up for grabs.  How many essays on rape culture and rape jokes have I read in just the last year?  How many sexual foreclosure projects are on offer in our legislatures and media?

We refuse to be worn out is our secret motto, but that’s why we consult with each other, to generate energy for the re-encounter, and the long life of a pedagogy whose content can change but whose presence is a sign of the attachment to life.  It’s not just the pressure of economic precarity that motivates/disturbs/exhausts us, not just the pressure of our rageful disidentification with national power and the law as it drones on wearing out life wherever the empire seeks order and racializes compulsively, not just the ongoing labor of insisting that the work of identity politics is not over and still inspiring, but also a strong wave of constant disgust at the ordinariness of gay-hatred, misogyny and erotophobia. Occupy Misogyny?  Never left it. The pervasive and intense austerity of the moment sucks the air out in a slow oxygen leak that makes asthmatics of us all. Politics is not just for genres of demonstration and demand.  It requires also genres of checking in to provide a little breathing space that allows for redistributing and disturbing  negative affect, de-isolating ourselves-in-damage, and hatching strategies for not reproducing the violence, for moving the scene of life to an alter-real.


“Politics, Teaching, Art and Writing: an Interview with Lauren Berlant,” in Jennifer Cooke, Challenging Intimacies: Legacies of Psychoanalysis, Textual Practice 27: 4 (2013). [Any month now.]

David Seitz and Lauren Berlant, originally called “Queer Optimism,” now on the Society and Space website.

Lauren Berlant, “On her book Cruel Optimism,” 5 June 2012, Rorotoko.

Affect in the End Times: A Conversation with Lauren Berlant, Lauren Berlant and Jordan Greenwald, Qui Parle Spring/Summer 2012.

Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Bojana Cvejic; , Isabell Lorey, Jasbir Puar, and Ana Vujanovic; edited by Jasbir Puar, The Drama Review 56:4 (T216) Winter 2012.

Yubraj Aryal, “Interview with Lauren Berlant: Affect and the Political,” Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiryclip_image002Volume 7, Number 17 (2012).

Heather Davis and Paige Sarlin, Interview with Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt: 2 versions, “The Risk of a New Relationality” in BRIC (2011) and “No One is Sovereign in Love” in No More Potlucks (2011): http://nomorepotlucks.org/editorial/amour-no-18.

Love as a Properly Political Concept,” in Cultural Anthropology (2011): Vol. 26, Issue 4, pp. 683–691.

Jay Prosser, “Life Writing and Intimate Publics: An Interview with Lauren Berlant,” Biography 34, 1 (Winter 2011): 180-187. (See Jolly below)

Lauren Berlant, Gesa Helms, Marina Vishmidt, “Affect & the Politics of Austerity: An Interview Exchange with Lauren Berlant,” Variant 39/40 (Winter 2010): 3-6.

Earl McCabe, “Depressive Realism:  An Interview with Lauren Berlant”

See also special issues of Biography ed. by Margaretta Jolly, and of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, eds. Kamrath and Deem ); special online forums at Social Text and the Barnard Center for Research on Women related to Cruel Optimism.

See also the free download Desire/Love.

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[…] be replaced by genuine happiness; in writing, where they must be subordinated to house style, & the oppressed are “asked to be pleasing, soothing, perky, comic or melodramatic, status-enhancing, and […]

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[…] A few posts ago I mentioned exploring experiments in observation and form, with Katie Stewart, in a project called The Hundreds.  Two of them have just been published in the experimental journal TAG.  You can download them there.  Here they are, for the record, though: and this way I can revise them as I refine the project over time. […]

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