Being in Life without Wanting the World: On Biopolitics and the Attachment to Life

Sep 24, 2018, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
101 McCormick Hall



Event Description

This talk is located in a shattered, formally inconsistent, yet intelligible zone defined by "being in life without wanting the world." Reading with Claudia Rankine (Don’t Let Me Be Lonely), the novel and film of A Single Man (Christopher Isherwood, 1964; Tom Ford, 2009), and Harryette Mullen (Sleeping with the Dictionary), it describes an aesthetics and a subjectivity shaped on one side by suicide and on the other by a life drive that is also, paradoxically, negative, in that it turns toward life by turning away from the world of injury, negation, and contingency that endures as a defining pressure on biopolitically-defined subjects. It suggests attending to and developing a dissociative poetics. The talk is less abstract than this abstract.

Lauren Berlant teaches at the University of Chicago, where she is the George M. Pullman  distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. Her national sentimentality trilogy—The Anatomy of National Fantasy (1991), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (1997), and The Female Complaint (2008)—has morphed into a quartet, with Cruel Optimism (2011), addressing precarious publics and the aesthetics of affective adjustment in the contemporary United States and Europe. Her interest in affect, aesthetics, and politics is also expressed in the edited volumes Intimacy (2000), Compassion (2004), On the Case (Critical Inquiry, 2007), and, with Sianne Ngai, Comedy, A Special Issue (2017). Her most recent books are Desire/Love (2012) and, with Lee Edelman, Sex, or the Unbearable (2014). Forthcoming in January 2019 is a book of exercises in conceptual poesis, written with the anthropologist Kathleen Stewart, called The Hundreds. She blogs at Supervalent Thought.

Eberhard L. Faber 1915 Memorial Fund in the Humanities Council