This book is the product of a long process of sitting with my
graduate research on Genet and considering (and reconsider-
ing) where I might go with it. I am fortunate to have received
help at various stages of this process from a series of generous
mentors. The book would never have been written without
Robyn Wiegman. I was ready to drop this project after de-
fending my dissertation. It was she who read between the lines
of my dissertation and into my crisis of faith with Genet. She
convinced me that, rather than moving on in search of a better
object, I might write a good book by thinking through Genet’s
disappointment of my scholarly ideals. The publication of her
book Object Lessons was a major catalyst in my thinking about
how to do this. I am as grateful to her for the example of her
rigorous and searching inquiry into the affective life of field
formation as I am for her continually pushing me to make this
book the most interesting possible version of itself. I thank
my dissertation director, Marc Schachter, for allowing me to
stretch the boundaries of a dissertation in French literature.
Heather Love’s use of literature to think the historical expe-
rience of sex and gender deviance and attentiveness to texts
that do not go where critics might want to push them in Feeling
Backward was a major influence on this project. I am indebted
to her for writing this book and for her intensive and insightful
engagement with my manuscript. At a critical juncture, Tavia
Nyong’o took the time to help me understand the genre of the
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