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Cruel Optimism Paperback – October 27, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822351110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822351115
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant’s brilliant new book, lays bare the price of our habitual ways of thinking about subjectivity, temporality, affect, attachment, and political investment. Exploring the condition of precarity that mocks the good life (or at least the better life) that hard work and good behavior are supposed to make possible within liberal democracy, Berlant’s bold analyses of the impasse of the present and her unflinching determination to follow a thought to its necessary end make clear why this is a crucial, indeed a necessary, book at this moment—and also why it will inform our critical discourse for years to come.”—Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive


“Lauren Berlant elegantly weaves together readings of contemporary art, literature, and film to reveal how our persistent aspirations for the good life are continually thwarted. Reading this book is an exciting theoretical experience but it also has a very practical, immediate, everyday quality. Berlant gives us something like a how-to guide for living in the impasse, that is, the affective and political conditions of our present.”—Michael Hardt, co-author of Commonwealth


“This brilliant book will be much read and much cited. Lauren Berlant is widely regarded as one of the most important and original critics of contemporary cultural logics. Here she offers a genuinely new angle on familiar processes through her subtle yet forceful reading of cruel optimism, the psychic and structural dynamics that keep people proximate to objects, fantasies, and worlds that seem to diminish them.”—Sara Ahmed, author of The Promise of Happiness


“Lauren Berlant is not shitting on you or your dream. OK, yes, her latest book is called Cruel Optimism. . . . . Yes, the University of Chicago professor will break down everything you hold dear: food, love, politics, family, virtuous New Year’s resolutions. And yes, within a few pages, there’s that creeping sensation that, whatever makes you tick, it’s got you on the fast track to ruin and disappointment. . . . Nevertheless . . . Cruel Optimism is less brutal analysis than a dark, lush still-life of American fantasies and our Quixotic lunges toward them. An affective portrait of the 99%.”
(Caitlin Hu Bitch)

“This is Berlant at her most revolutionarily queer, questioning what would happen if we stopped thinking of ourselves in terms of identity categories, and instead reorganized our sense of self around the specific objects and ideas to which we are attached and the affects that they produce in us.”
(Chase Dimock Lambda Literary Review)

Cruel Optimism is a must read for any scholar interested in exploring the affective dimensions of precarity. . . . Cruel Optimism does precisely what Berlant’s work always does - it changes the conversation in such a way that it makes you wonder why we weren’t talking about these things all along.”
(Anna E. Ward New Formations)

“If you are looking for some new language to use to describe the current crisis of hope, read Cruel Optimism. . . . It is a wild, deeply witty examination of our attachments to food, love, politics, family, and pop culture.”
(Kate Clinton The Progressive)

About the Author

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture and The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, both also published by Duke University Press, as well as The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life. She the editor of the books Intimacy; Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion; and (with Lisa Duggan) Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and National Interest.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Max on November 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm only four chapters in but am enjoying the book. It's accessible for non-academics who read it recreationally, and it's less scatter-brained than Zizek's works written for a wide audience. It quickly contextualizes other authors' views such that the uninitiated reader isn't lost. That said, it's not as fluffy as cultural studies written for the NYTimes bestseller list (and that's a good thing).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In her theoretically nuanced readings of literature, film, art, resistance, and everyday life, Berlant offers a lyrical and original recalibration of the vocabularies affect theorists might employ to reflect on the intersections between socioeconomic difference, fantasy, and desire as well as the biopolitical valences of these intersections.
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By Alfred Roman-Rodriguez on March 24, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A foundational text for Affect Theory
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