“The Essentialist Villain: On Leo Bersani” by Mikko Tuhkanen— A Look at Bersani

Tuhkanen, Mikko. “The Essentialist Villain: On Leo Bersani”, SUNY Press, 2018.

A Look at Bersani

Amos Lassen

Leo Bersani is an American literary theorist and Professor Emeritus of French who has specialized in onto-ethics/aesthetics amidst numerous literary, artistic, and philosophical influences. This is the first full-length study of Bersani who began publishing his ideas in the late 1950s.

Bersani’s work has influenced numerous scholarly fields, from studies of French modernism and realist fiction to psychoanalytic criticism and film theory. It has been instrumental in the In this study, Mikko Tuhkanen tracks the unfolding of Bersani’s onto-ethics/aesthetics, paying particular attention to his persistent references to “essence,” a concept central to classical speculative philosophy. This speculative philosophy has fallen into distinct disfavor since the emergence of deconstructive thought. Because of his early influences (particularly Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy) Bersani remains an ontologist through decades when deconstruction seems to have all but disallowed any thought of being. Tuhkanen also places Bersani’s thought amidst numerous literary, artistic, and philosophical interlocutors, including Deleuze, Freud, Proust, Laplanche, Beckett, Baudelaire, Genet, Leibniz, and others.

As well as providing an assessment of Bersani, we get a look at his thoughts and writing about the contemporary critical scene. Identifying a ‘homo-monadology’ at its core, Tuhkanen situates Bersani at the proper onto-aesthetic level of his thought.


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