How Should a Person Be ? Ben Lerner, Roberto Esposito, and the Biopolitics of the Future

Political Theory 45 (5):659-681 (2017)

This essay complements Roberto Esposito’s analysis of the political category of the person by outlining the role of literature, and especially the genre of the novel, in consolidating this category and allowing it to do its political and affective work. The essay shows how Ben Lerner’s 2014 novel 10:04 dismantles three central features of the traditional novel’s poetics of the person: its investment in the notion of literary character, its use of fictionality, and its structural reliance on the narrative future. Lerner’s novel, like Esposito’s biopolitical work, aims to overcome the hierarchical divisions within human life that are endemic to the category of the person and that have historically fostered biopolitical violence. Both projects intimate a less destructive politics—what Lerner calls “the transpersonal” and Esposito “the impersonal.”
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DOI 10.1177/0090591716668382
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