Readers of The Chronicle will be plenty familiar with “Troublemaker” Laura Kipnis, a professor of film at Northwestern University. In February of 2015, she wrote an essay about “sexual paranoia” on campuses. A group of Northwestern students protested the piece, and then two graduate students brought a Title IX case against her, arguing that her essay had a “chilling effect.” No one could do a better job than Kipnis herself in describing the whole affair: “Being protested had its gratifying side — I soon realized that my writer friends were jealous that I’d gotten marched on and they hadn’t.” She’s working on a book, titled Higher Education/Stupid Sex, based on her recent experiences.
But many of us were reading Kipnis long before this series of unfortunate events. She’s been writing interesting, provocative, funny, smart, and graceful essays for a long time. I first became aware of her when she published Against Love: A Polemic. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called the book a “ragingly witty yet contemplative look at the discontents of domestic and erotic relationships” where Kipnis “combines portions of the slashing sexual contrarianism of Mailer, the scathing antidomestic wit of early Roseanne Barr and the coolly analytical aesthetics of early Sontag.” Who could resist that kind of mash-up?