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Sex, or the Unbearable (Theory Q) Kindle Edition
Through virtuoso interpretations of works of cinema, photography, critical theory, and literature, including Lydia Davis's 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.
"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." -- Marcie Bianco ― Lambda Literary Review
"This collaboration between Berlant and Edelman has a feel for the ecology of thinking as it passes between two points. Like holding one’s breath under water or passing a balloon back and forth without its touching the floor, these conversations illuminate the sense of timing with which ideas respond to and are shaped by each other." -- Michael D. Snediker ― Theory & Event
“Berlant and Edelman take debates around the antisocial thesis as a point of departure to theorize the importance of relationality, loss and repair, sovereignty, and negativity in the politics and ethics of queer theory. Despite the overlapping topics of interest that have marked their respective works, their varying theoretical approaches make for a smart, enlivening, and productive conversation in Sex, or the Unbearable.” -- Fiona I. B. Ngô ― American Studies
“While Berlant and Edelman do not address popular romances, their work can be informative to the work of romance scholars in tackling issues of the place of sex and the erotic, especially within some romance tropes, such as discovery of a new sexual orientation plots in queer romances, or submissive-for-you plots in many erotic romances of all orientations.” -- Amanda Jo Hobson ― Journal of Popular Romance Studies
“Among the book’s major attractions is its inventive dialogic form, and Berlant and Edelman’s masterful close readings of diverse media. The authors alternate named passages, riffing on each others’ ideas and including their moments of complex ambiguous affect, including responses to the other of misappropriation, frustration, delight and surprise, so often elided in collaborative critical theory. This dialogic form and its auto-analysis is one of the great intellectual joys of the book, a fascinating and inventive device well-suited to a discussion of the complex investments subjects have in relationality, including sex, conversation, and pedagogy.” -- Jessica Durham ― Colloquy Published On: 2015-11-01
“These two authors offer an intense and highly insightful account of interactions between two subjects that, I suggest, could be fruitfully applied to understanding encounters in organizations. They show some of the complexities of relationality: it is violent, pleasurable, productive, a scene of fantasy and misrecognition, all these and more.” -- Nancy Harding ― Gender, Work & Organization Published On: 2016-01-01
“As an overall project, Sex, or the Unbearable pushes forward the debate on queer negativity and antisociality, whilst also contributing to contemporary queer, feminist and cultural theory’s wider critiques of academic knowledge production and the political utility of academic scholarship.” -- Kathryn Medien and Jacob Breslow ― Sexualities Published On: 2015-09-01 --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B00I6ZL22G
- Publisher : Duke University Press Books; Illustrated edition (November 18, 2013)
- Publication date : November 18, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 1094 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 168 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,776 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Among other things, this book’s portrayal of Berlant and Edelman’s live, embroiled disagreement has helped me to escape being rendered mute by my fear of mischaracterizing Edelman’s argument, which has proven so endlessly mischaracterizable by so many smarter people than me, if his multiple MLA rebuttals of them are any indication.* But those mutual rebuttals have unfolded in the slow time of monographic work and conference Q&As. By contrast, the structure of the dialogue between Berlant and Edelman, which opens with their joint avowal of the negativity/nonsovereignty inherent in all encounters, at least makes their ensuing disagreements feel like a proper engagement with each other rather than a consistently one-sided conversation with an oppositional strawman. Not that there aren’t strawmen in this book, since one of its pleasures is watching Edelman continually recast Berlant as a reparative/naïve theorist, and Berlant in turn calling him out for mischaracterizing her claims. However, having Berlant as an interlocutor forces Edelman to come the closest he has yet to stating his optimisms outright. He confesses that flourishing for him involves engaging in a realistic, continual struggle with negativity (see page 11), and that part of this engagement involves taking up the position of devil’s advocate against another’s position even if, for instance (and this is only implied), he is a lot more aligned with Berlant’s belief in helping others into a realist relation to negativity than he admits (see page 115).
What’s lovely about this exchange is that Berlant and Edelman’s mutually locked horns don’t make us feel as though a cleverer person has already figured things out and we’re simply not smart or qualified enough to piece together the unspoken counterarguments they would have to our doubts. But as Berlant and Edelman admit in the preface, their focus on continually clarifying their positions in the face of each other’s skepticisms and misrecognitions keeps the book on the lean, succinct track of explaining negativity’s relation to optimism, reparativity and living from two different perspectives, all in a highly abstract and general register. This means that the book can only remain a prelude to all the different directions in which its theory of negativity can be put to productive thought, including about sex itself. For example, the book never directly tackles the sex pastoralists that might be their obvious interlocutors, e.g. those sex-positive liberals who worship at the church of consent, a term denoting a sovereignty that cannot hold within the risky, negativity-ridden space of the intimate encounter. But perhaps to call such interlocutors “obvious” is unwise, if we are to absorb Berlant and Edelman’s point, which is that we should ever leave ourselves open to the surprise of how others (and even our selves) might be affected by what we have to present and take that in turn into new, surprising and often unbearable directions.
* For samplers of Edelman’s MLA parries against utopian theorists, see [...] and [...]
Top reviews from other countries
This book is probably not a great intro to either author's work, don't be fooled by the small page count. It took me weeks to work through the book. But for me, it was well worth it. I posted no fewer than 3 amazing quotations on my facebook from it (all Berlant, although she wasn't always my favourite throughout).