Cruel Optimism provides important new ways of understanding subjectivity, temporality, attachment, and the political in the present moment. Lauren Berlant explores individual and collective affective responses to the unravelling of the U.S. and European economies by analyzing mass media, literature, television, film, and video produced in the United States and Europe since 1990. Her incisive interpretations track the emergence of a sense of crisis in relation to conventional notions of the good life and expectations of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and enduring intimacy. Berlant suggests modes of temporality that characterize the present, particularly the impasse and the situation, and she discusses new genres such as the "situation tragedy" and the "cinema of precarity," which reflect the eroding power of the fantasy of the good life and the ways that crisis has become ordinary. Given this "crisis ordinariness," Berlant argues that trauma theory, which focuses on the intense and extraordinary, is not well suited to explaining the impasse of present. Berlant advocates attention to how people register and adjust to the pressures of contemporary life and how these processes unfold over time.
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