This essay studies figures of arrest and mobility, imprisonment and release, and “rigor and extravagance” in Leo Bersani’s writings. Focusing on The Forms of Violence, a study of late Assyrian sculpture coauthored with Ulysse Dutoit and first published in 1985, the essay at once follows and moves away from the book’s analysis of “a cage which imprisons nothing.” Asking what this analysis discloses and what it occludes, the essay turns briefly to the vast expansion of California’s carceral state that forms a historical backdrop for the book’s composition. The author reads The Forms of Violence as unseeing this expansion as well as the history of the institution that sustains Bersani and Dutoit’s reflections: the museum. Written as a tribute to Bersani, the essay attends to both his style and the movements of his thought.
ramsey mcglazer is an assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Old Schools: Modernism, Education, and the Critique of Progress (Fordham University Press, 2020). “The Fortress Deserted,” his essay on Bersani’s Thoughts and Things, was published in Qui Parle in 2015.
Ramsey McGlazer; Cage. differences 1 May 2023; 34 (1): 51–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-10435534
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