Leo Bersani, literary critic and gay life theorist, dies at 90

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Dale Peck, writing in The Village Voice, took Dr Bersani to task but ignoring the realities of the AIDS crisis and the changes gay men needed to make in light of it, while Denis Donoghue, writing in the New York Times, warned that “his agenda in ‘Homos’ seems to me a regression to apartheid, and imposed this time by homosexuals.”

Dr. Bersani, who has spent most of his career at the University of California, Berkeley, has often been called a queer theorist, much like Dr. Butler. But his work long predated the development of the field and extended well beyond it.

His early writings, beginning with journal articles in the late 1950s and his first book, “Marcel Proust: The Fictions of Life and Art” (1965), examined modern French literature through a reading of Freudian psychoanalysis, while describing the limits of Sigmund Freud’s work.

In Freud and in the character of Marcel, the protagonist of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, Dr. Bersani found an insistence that humans are driven by a desire to fill a psychic lack by grasping, including and ultimately asserting power over lost time. world.

This desire, he argued, was not innate, but rather instilled in us by society. In fact, he said, humans are inherently digressive and frivolous, and through much of his work he attempted to construct a form of literary criticism that followed suit – criticism that considered literature not as an enigma to be solved but as an enigma to be solved. admired and appreciated, if ever grasped.

“There was a game,” Mikko Tuhkanen, an English professor at Texas A&M University and a leading expert on Dr. Bersani’s work, said in an email. “He was angered by the ‘serious death’ of much scholarship on, for example, modernist texts. The “exegetical” (as he called it) commentary on James Joyce, for example, annoyed him endlessly: the effort to break down the riddles the Master left us.

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