The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture


Product Details

Duke University Press
Publish Date
6.42 X 0.84 X 9.18 inches | 1.13 pounds
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About the Author

Lauren Berlant is the George M. Pullman Professor of English and Chair of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, also published by Duke University Press, and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life. She is the editor of Compassion; Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (with Lisa Duggan); and Intimacy.


"The Female Complaint advances and refines the relationship between intimacy and publicity in ways that suggestively rethink the category of individuality in late capitalism. . . . The Female Complaint is an uncannily hopeful book, finding value and possibility in a wholly nonredemptive account of convention."
--Jordan Alexander Stein "GLQ "
"The Female Complaint is a tour de force, a bracing read for feminist and postmodernist students of popular culture, as well as for genre theorists."--Linda Seidel "Journal of Popular Culture "
"Some of the most important essays on U.S. culture produced during the past decade appear in The Female Complaint."--Shirley Samuels "Novel "
"The affective pleasure of reading The Female Complaint emerges from its unwillingness to sacrifice either incisive political critique that challenges the limits of women's culture or textured formal accounts of the powerful emotional experience its texts provide for its consumers. . . . Theoretically ambitious and cogently argued, funny and invigorating, Berlant's text promises to profoundly reshape how we think about sentimentality, gender, and affect in American culture."--Margaret Ronda "American Book Review "
"Guiding us through a 'women's culture' animated by scenes of longing for a fantasmatic commonality, an ever-elusive normativity, Lauren Berlant illuminates, in readings unfailingly subtle and wise, the psychic negotiations and emotional bargaining that women in U.S. culture conduct to be part of an 'intimate public.' More dazzlingly still, she addresses what the business of sentimentality works to obscure: the possibility of political agency in the face of a cultural machinery that makes us feel helpless to do anything more than affirm our ability to feel. To read The Female Complaint is to realize how long and how much it's been needed."--Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
"Of all the feminist cultural theorists whom I admire, Lauren Berlant is the one I consider to be the most theoretically innovative and politically inspiring. Yet this book exceeded even my highest hopes and expectations. Refusing to dodge the really searching political questions for contemporary American culture, Berlant maps the tricky terrain of the intimate public sphere. She has written a phenomenal study of breathtaking scope. I have no doubt that scholars and students will continue to debate the issues it raises for many years to come."--Jackie Stacey, University of Manchester
"Lauren Berlant's voice is as unmistakable as Ella Fitzgerald singing scat. By turns seductive and bracing, gentle and wise, reassuring and disorienting, The Female Complaint asks readers to take mass-mediated women's culture seriously. By the end of this absorbing book, you will understand the importance of living better clichΓ©s, why love requires amnesia, and how banality can be therapeutic. You will also have an irresistible craving to watch Now, Voyager one more time, in whatever setting enables you to thrive, and to give this fascinating book to someone who deserves to love better, or to forgive herself for just getting by."--Mary Poovey, New York University
"Berlant sounds like your smartest and bitchiest friend--and the insights just keep coming." - Heather Love, Women's Review of Books