Over the course of these essays, Bersani grapples with thinkers ranging from Plato to Descartes to Georg Simmel. Foucault and Freud recur as key figures, and although Foucault rejected psychoanalysis, Bersani contends that by considering his ideas alongside Freud’s, one gains a clearer understanding of human identity and how we relate to one another. For Bersani, art represents a crucial guide for conceiving new ways of connecting to the world, and so, in many of these essays, he stresses the importance of aesthetics, analyzing works by Genet, Caravaggio, Proust, Almodóvar, and Godard.
Documenting over two decades in the life of one of the best minds working in the humanities today, Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays is a unique opportunity to explore the fruitful career of a formidable intellect.
Leo Bersani is professor emeritus of French at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Homos and coauthor, with Adam Phillips, of Intimacies, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
In a Queer Time and Place opens with a probing analysis of the life and death of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man who was brutally murdered in small-town Nebraska. After looking at mainstream representations of the transgender body as exhibited in the media frenzy surrounding this highly visible case and the Oscar-winning film based on Brandon's story, Boys Don’t Cry, Halberstam turns her attention to the cultural and artistic production of queers themselves. She examines the “transgender gaze,” as rendered in small art-house films like By Hook or By Crook, as well as figurations of ambiguous embodiment in the art of Del LaGrace Volcano, Jenny Saville, Eva Hesse, Shirin Neshat, and others. She then exposes the influence of lesbian drag king cultures upon hetero-male comic films, such as Austin Powers and The Full Monty, and, finally, points to dyke subcultures as one site for the development of queer counterpublics and queer temporalities.
Considering the sudden visibility of the transgender body in the early twenty-first century against the backdrop of changing conceptions of space and time, In a Queer Time and Place is the first full-length study of transgender representations in art, fiction, film, video, and music. This pioneering book offers both a jumping off point for future analysis of transgenderism and an important new way to understand cultural constructions of time and place.
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.