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Sex, or the Unbearable

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Sex, or the Unbearable is a dialogue between Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, two of our leading theorists of sexuality, politics, and culture. In juxtaposing sex and the unbearable they don't propose that sex is unbearable, only that it unleashes unbearable contradictions that we nonetheless struggle to bear. In Berlant and Edelman's exchange, those terms invoke ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published December 9th 2013 by Duke University Press Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Verdie Culbreath
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is definitely an important book for anyone interested in queer theory, psychoanalysis, affect, and sexuality. Reading this book was a roller coaster for me in a lot of ways. I admire the critical conversation that develops and I am constantly reminding myself, since encountering this text, to think "with and against" everything I read--that "thinking with and against are the same." That is probably the most important take away here. At other points it feels as though Edelman and Berlant ...more
Mary K
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Alain Badiou has good reason to remind us that 'every definition of Man based on happiness is nihilist,' but we can never be reminded often enough that the political program of happiness as a regulatory norm is less a recipe for liberation than an inducement to entomb oneself in the stillness of an image." 18
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: gay-lit, lady-writers
Not enough sex, and sometimes rather unbearable to slog through. My main takeaway was that I need to read Eve Sedgwick and Lydia Davis.
Anyone remotely interested in affect theory or queer theory would do well to read this book.

In some respects, this is an incredibly compelling book. The questions posed that trouble both Edelman's and Berlant's theories about relation, politics, etc. are substantial. LE, if negativity is itself structure, can the so-called "antisocial" project do what it claims to do? LB, what if the encounter with the unbearable cannot shift the consequences of world-building; what if the Symbolic is as
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not for the faint of heart. Read this for my first graduate class in critical theory. It was pretty intimidating. Written in a conversational manner, which is somewhat helpful as Berlant's tone is much more reader-friendly than Edelman's. Hard to say what I think presently. We're discussing this book in class tomorrow. Maybe I'll come back to this for a second read over the summer while I'm catching up on gender and queer theory readings.
University of Chicago Magazine
Laura Berlant

George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature (Humanities Division)
A. F.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Viva la cute asshole!
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written in a conversational style, Berlant and Edelman navigate hard to parse issues of sex and queer theory and propose alternatives. In particular I enjoyed the chapter Sex Without Optimism, in which adorableness and its precarious relationship with sex is discussed at length. A great foundational text for understanding queer theory and what that can entail. ...more
Duke Press
"Berlant and Edelmans 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

Whats lovely about this exchange is that Berlant and Edelmans mutually locked horns dont make us feel as though a cleverer person has already figured things out and were simply not smart or qualified enough to piece together the unspoken counterarguments they
William Gooding
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The dialogical format of the book provided a fascinating example of the unbearable nature of communication and relationality. Sex, or the Unbearable led me in a very different direction from what I expected but it was a welcome shift
Tobias Wiggins
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Engaging discussion between two prominent queer thinkers, a meta discourse on unbearable relationality. I found Edelmen's responses to the question of politics in his Lacanian anti-social thesis to be particularly helpful, after reading No Future.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
*I received this book as a First Reads giveaway*

Definitely thought-provoking and very refreshing as it's been written in the form of a dialogue. Concentration and a theoretical mindset are both required before tackling this book.
Amanda Hobson
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Very thought provoking. The structure is fascinating. Full review coming in Journal of Popular Romance Studies.
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Lauren Berlant is an English Professor at the University of Chicago, where she has been teaching since 1984. Berlant received her Ph.D. from Cornell University. She writes and teaches on issues of intimacy and belonging in popular culture, in relation to the history and fantasy of citizenship.

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April is the most hopeful of months, promising warm days and sunshine just around the corner. The weather is a little unpredictable, sure, but tha...
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“Negativity as a source for social theory tends to reject the impulses to repair social relations that appear to us irreparable, and in that light, our work might seem quietistic, apolitical, nihilist, defeatist, or even irresponsible. By engaging closely with sociality and with our own deep-rooted tendencies to think about its zones of optimism and longing, we are seeking to make a persuasive case for the necessity of recognizing the importance of addressing structural antagonisms in any analytic of the social. In doing so, we seek to affirm negativity's central role in any antinormative politics. We hope this conversation might permit a reframing of the antisocial thesis that has already generated such lively debate and so much important theoretical work by its critics and adherents alike. Part” 1 likes
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