Pairing literary criticism and historical analysis, Berlant explores the territory of this intimate public sphere through close readings of U.S. women’s literary works and their stage and film adaptations. Her interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its literary descendants reaches from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, touching on Shirley Temple, James Baldwin, and The Bridges of Madison County along the way. Berlant illuminates different permutations of the women’s intimate public through her readings of Edna Ferber’s Show Boat; Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life; Olive Higgins Prouty’s feminist melodrama Now, Voyager; Dorothy Parker’s poetry, prose, and Academy Award–winning screenplay for A Star Is Born; the Fay Weldon novel and Roseanne Barr film The Life and Loves of a She-Devil; and the queer, avant-garde film Showboat 1988–The Remake. The Female Complaint is a major contribution from a leading Americanist.
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.
Our Monica, Ourselves provides a forum for thinking through the cultural, political, and public policy issues raised by the investigation, publicity, and Congressional impeachment proceedings surrounding the affair. It pulls this spectacle out of the framework provided by the conventions of the corporate news media, with its particular notions of what constitutes a newsworthy event. Drawing from a broad range of scholars, Our Monica, Ourselves considers Monica Lewinsky's Jewishness, Linda Tripp's face, the President's penis, the role of shame in public discourse, and what it's like to have sex as the president, as well as specific legal and historical issues at stake in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Thoughtful but accessible, immediate yet far reaching, Our Monica, Ourselves will change the way we think about the Clinton affair, while helping us reimagine culture and politics writ large.
Contributors include: Lauren Berlant, Eric O. Clarke, Ann Cvetkovich, Simone Weil Davis, Lisa Duggan, Jane Gallop, Marjorie Garber, Janet R. Jakobsen, James R. Kincaid, Laura Kipnis, Tomasz Kitlinski, Pawel Leszkowicz, Joe Lockard, Catharine Lumby, Toby Miller, Dana D. Nelson, Anna Marie Smith, Ellen Willis, and Eli Zaretsky.