"Love in the Time of Contagion" by Laura Kipnis
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Featured on The Thread: Are we ready for COVID-19 as a central theme in literature?
COVID-19 has produced new taxonomies of love, intimacy, and vulnerability. Will its cultural afterlife be as lasting as that of HIV, which reshaped consciousness about sex and love even after AIDS itself had been beaten back by medical science? Will COVID end up making us more relationally conservative, as some think HIV did within gay culture? Will it send us fleeing into emotional siloes or coupled cocoons, despite the fact that, pre-COVID, domestic coupledom had been steadily losing fans?
Just as COVID revealed our nation to itself, so did it hold a mirror up to our own relationships. In Love in the Time of Contagion, Laura Kipnis weaves (often hilariously) her own (ambivalent) coupled lockdown experiences together with those of others, and sets them against a larger backdrop: the politics of the virus, economic disparities, changing gender relations, and the ongoing institutional crack-ups prompted by #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, as she maps their effects on the everyday routines and occasional solaces of love and sex.