February 27th | Rivky Mondal on “Living with Difference: Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Raven Leilani’s Luster”

The Affect and the Emotions Workshop and

the 20th & 21st Century Cultures Workshop are pleased to welcome:

Rivky Mondal

PhD Candidate, Department of English Language and Literature

“Living with Difference: Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Raven Leilani’s Luster

Monday, February 27th from 5:00-6:30 pm
via Zoom


with respondent Lauren Jackson, Assistant Professor of English at Northwestern University

 This chapter examines two fictional worlds constructed largely through female protagonists’ microsocial observations of difference. Sally Rooney’sConversations with Friends(2017) and Raven Leilani’s Luster(2020) center on the perceptions of women in their early 20s whose marginalized position enables them to see the confrontation, and contradictions, of everyday life and large-scale categories of race, gender, age, and class. I argue that Rooney and Leilani foreground both scales, and, in toggling between them, reveal points of mismatch. This non-equivalence indexes a broader crisis of making connections in the millennial novel. Citing the respective social and political consequences of this crisis in the works themselves, the chapter considers the use of super-subtle readings within neoliberalism’s political extrovertedness, an ethos marked by subjects’ far-reaching forthrightness around injustice and identity. Ultimately, I suggest that the affordances of the two novels is the aesthetic value they assign to characters’ hesitation to generalize about others and a formal design that leaves room for alterity within the diegesis.


Our meetings are open to the University of Chicago community and visitors who comply with University of Chicago vaccination requirements. We are committed to making our workshop fully accessible for people with disabilities. Please direct any questions and concerns to the Affect and Emotions Workshop Coordinators, Gasira Timir (gtimir@uchicago.edu) and Bellamy Mitchell (bellamy@uchicago.edu), or the 20thand 21st Century workshop coordinators, Cassandra Lerer (crblerer@uchicago.edu) and Chris Gortmaker (cgortmaker@uchicago.edu).

Image: Lizzy Lunday, From the Clouds(2022)