Leo Bersani is well known for making a case for the pleasures of sameness. But “to circulate within sameness,” he notes, “we must first of all welcome [ . . . ] lessness.” This essay explores that hospitable gesture in Bersani’s work, focusing on the self-abnegating practice of willing ourselves “to be less than who we are.” What does it mean to be “uncontaminated by a psychology of desire” and “unaccompanied by an essentially doomed and generally anguished interrogation of the other’s desire”? There can be no single answer to that ethically consequential question, which explains the jubilant restlessness of Bersani’s oeuvre. The author concludes with a reading of Freud’s infamous fort/da game, arguing that the child lessens his stake in a magisterial and anxious identity so as to extend himself, or parts of himself, joyfully and impersonally, into the world.

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