This article makes the case for a rejuvenated and multifaceted mode of paranoid reading. Eve Sedgwick famously used the term paranoid reading to signal critique's overblown, cynical, and alarmist tendencies and to provisionally create the space for a reparative alternative. Since then, the specific concept of paranoia has barely figured in the dispute over critique's usefulness, appearing only latently in, for example, Bruno Latour's “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” when he evokes conspiracy theory as a symptom of the mainstream's oversaturation by the precepts of theory. It was thus that paranoia became once again the domain of political ideologues and their fervent supporters rather than a viable mode of literary critical engagement. Against recent postcritical dismissals of critique and other suspicious hermeneutics, the article argues that paranoia offers one of the most generative sites of potential collaboration between criticism and the novel. Circumscribing this potential, the article discovers three distinct but imbricated paranoid styles in Colson Whitehead's first novel, The Intuitionist: the racialized paranoid imperative, paranoid double consciousness, and what I tentatively call aleatory paranoia. These styles characterize a radical form of racialized paranoid thought whose diverse precepts constellate into a genuine mode of critique, not only of the structures of white supremacy but of the forms of fatalistic racial capitalist ideology that enable their persistence. The article thus serves to exemplify the expanded horizon of critical possibility enabled by a mode of reading that takes the novel as a site of the production of new ways of knowing.

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