This essay, originally delivered as a response to Leo Bersani's presentation “Father Knows Best” at UC Berkeley's “Queer Bonds” conference, provides a critical appraisal of Bersani's reading of Claire Denis's film Beau Travail, exploring both the film's neo- and postcolonial implications and its radical reconfigurations of subjectivity. Already implicit in Bersani's reading is a question about the limits of a certain psychoanalysis for reimagining subjectivities less agonistically forged than narrative traditions in the West, which Freud inherits, allow. Further, Bersani explores the possibilities of an impersonal, nonnarrative radicalization of subjectivity through analyses of form in the work of art. This essay focuses, rather, on the ways narrative and visual textualities remain agonistically tethered to embodied subjectivity in the work under consideration, and asks whether and how subjectivity might be reconceived otherwise, even as genealogical inheritance continues to haunt its instantiations.

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