’s most recent book, Cruel Optimism
(Duke UP, 2011), undertakes the ambitious and necessary project of thinking the political present. Cruel Optimism
attends closely to what goes undernoticed about living in relation to waning or worn-out models of legibility, sovereignty and sustainability. Working through the rhythms of crisis ordinariness, patiently tracking the emergence of new genres, styles and modes of response to the diffused conditions of precariousness that constitute contemporary life, revising critical models of agency to incorporate the floundering and gestural ways people attempt to make sense of their worlds, Cruel Optimism
extends Berlant’s longstanding critical concern with the development of intimate publics into the present, exploring “what happens to fantasies of the good life when the ordinary becomes a landfill for overwhelming and impending crises of life-building and expectation whose sheer volume so threatens what it has meant to ‘have a life’ that adjustment seems like accomplishment.”
This dossier assembles responses to the book by scholars Kandice Chuh, Lisa Duggan, Micki McGee, José Muñoz, Sianne Ngai, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Kyla Wazana Tompkins, and Rebecca Wanzo. In a dialogue with dossier editor Dana Luciano, Berlant engages these responses in turn and reflects on her own recent and forthcoming projects.