Leo Bersani was an enormously seductive critic, and he frequently wrote about seductiveness, beginning with his first book, Marcel Proust: The Fictions of Life and Art. This essay focuses on a passage in that book where Bersani discusses Proust’s character, the Baron de Charlus, whose seductive orientation toward the world Bersani relates to Charlus’s “homosexual talk.” This essay considers the fate of seductiveness within Bersani’s own career-long homosexual talk. It moves, by way of his queer provocations of the 1980s and 1990s, from his first book to his 2013 preface to that book, and shows how, even as Bersani reformulated the seductive in increasingly austere terms, he continued to deploy it, never forgetting how close it is to the intolerable.
joseph litvak is a professor of English at Tufts University. His books include The Un-Amer-icans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture (Duke University Press, 2009) and Ahmed the Philosopher (Columbia University Press, 2014), a translation of Alain Badiou’s comic play Ahmed philosophe. He is currently writing a book about comedy and terror.
Joseph Litvak; Seductive. differences 1 May 2023; 34 (1): 228–234. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-10435829
Download citation file: