I have not had the emotional, or even intellectual, capacity to write about Lauren Berlant since her death. I feel the grief—sharp but also ineffable—but no words emerge in coherent narrative form. Memories float by, mental images, sentence fragments. In 1993, she told me I didn’t have a robust enough understanding of homosociality, in 1996 we stood over her stove roasting red peppers together, sometime in the early 2000s we had a heated discussion about South Park. in 2020, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she texted me with a single word (“sob”). Like that. But mostly it is just the indescribable (for me) feeling of loss. How do you write about someone who was your teacher, mentor, and dear friend for over two decades? The interpersonal joys and struggles, the sense of accomplishment and failure (oh the feeling of failure!), the laughter and the arguments. Others have done so beautifully, and I am grateful for that.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the Lynch Lecture that Lauren gave at the Bonham Centre entitled, “The Unfinished Business of Cruel Optimism: Crisis, Affect, Sentimentality.” We knew at the time that it was very likely to be her last public talk in which she could share her new work on The Inconvenience of Other People. And so we talked a lot about what form she wanted that to take. As was usual for her, she wanted it to happen in dialogue with other people, to connect and show up and build with friends, and so we asked Dana Luciano and Rebecca Wanzo to be part of the conversation. What emerged was a moving exchange about feeling, fantasy, the historical present, being in relation, and so much more.
– Dana Seitler, Director of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies