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Living in Ellipsis: On Biopolitics and the Attachment to Life

  • Classics 110 1010 E 59th St Chicago, IL, 60637 United States (map)

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 endure as an defining presence for biopolitically-defined subjects. It suggests attending to and developing a dissociative poetics. The talk will be less abstract than this abstract.

Bio: Lauren Berlant works on the production of legal and affective public spheres in the United States from the 19th century to the present; in particular, formal and informal modes of social belonging or citizenship. These might be organized according to political, racial, sexual, or economic status; they might be forged in everyday life. She also works on the public circulation of emotions like trauma, love, optimism, and political depression. Publications include Cruel Optimism (Duke 2011) and a trilogy including The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997), and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia and Everyday Life (1991).