Responding to the theme of this special issue’s engagement with the work of Leo Bersani, “Un/reading” tracks the itinerary of a single quotation across the four appearances it makes in published work between 2011 and 2018. While it is easy to query whether Bersani was aware of the citational redundancy, this essay focuses on the pedagogy of reading it suggests, not only in terms of Bersani’s own thought but for the critical humanities more generally. The quote in question posits the absolute necessity and impossibility of psychoanalysis in its attempt to “theorize an untheorizable psyche.” By focusing on the role that repetition plays in Bersani’s work, including his interest in nondialectical understandings of contradiction, this essay studies the elegant and cogent model of reading found in Bersani’s work in order to value the critical intuitions he repeated in order to hone.
zahid r. chaudhary is an associate professor of English at Princeton University where he specializes in postcolonial studies, visual culture, and critical theory. His first book Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (University of Minnesota Press, 2012) provides a historical and philosophical account of early photography in India, analyzing how aesthetic experiments in colonial photographic practice shed light on the changing nature of perception and notions of truth, memory, and embodiment. His current book in progress, Unruly Truth: Pyschopolitics and Crises of Authority, analyzes contemporary shifts in the collective deprioritizing of evidence and truth that attends a simultaneously increasing cultural emphasis on a politics of exposure.
robyn wiegman is a professor in the Program in Literature and the Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University, and former director of Women’s Studies at both Duke and the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Object Lessons (Duke University Press, 2012) and American Anatomies: Theorizing Race and Gender (Duke University Press, 1995) and has published numerous anthologies. She is currently working on two projects: “Arguments Worth Having,” which locates points of critical dissension in contemporary encounters between feminist, queer, and critical race thinking; and “Racial Sensations,” which uses theories of affect to analyze the toxic ecologies of race and sexuality in u.s. culture.
Zahid R. Chaudhary, Robyn Wiegman; Un/reading. differences 1 May 2023; 34 (1): 276–282. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-10435913
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