Can we appear in the world otherwise than seduced by the promise of its suffering? Persistently returning to this question, Leo Bersani seeks the potential for the human subject’s nonsadistic reinitiation. He does this by visiting the “ontological laboratories” of Baudelaire, Freud, and Caravaggio, among others. This essay threads the work of this experimentation across his texts, assessing the appeal and anguish of the summons to the undoing—a before—of life’s actualized forms.

You do not currently have access to this content.