Lauren Berlant was born in 1957 and has taught in the English Department at the University of Chicago since 1984. Her work focuses on politics, emotion, and intimacy in the United States over the past three hundred years, and how these topics relate to citizenship, belonging, affect, and fantasy, as well as in different social spheres (public and private, whitea nd non-white, straight and non-straight, citizen and foreigner).
With Vanalyne Green, Debbie Gould, Mary Patten, and Rebecca Zorach, Berlant is a co-founder of Feel Tank Chicago, a co-founder of the Center for Gender Studies at the University of Chicago, and the author of the blog Supervalent Thought, as well as a national sentimentality trilogy and the book Cruel Optimism (Duke University Press), among others. She is also an editor, of books and also two issues of Critical Inquiry, entitled On the Case.
In Cruel Optimism Berlant wrote that "a relation of cruel optimism is a double-bind in which your attachment to an object sustains you in life at the same time as that object is actually a threat to your flourishing… Like it might be that being in a couple is not a relation of cruel optimism for you, because being in a couple actually makes you feel like you have a grounding in the world, whereas for other people, being in a couple might be, on the one hand, a relief from loneliness, and on the other hand, the overprescense of one person who has to bear the burden of satisfying all your needs. So it's not the object that's the problem, but how we learn to be in relation."