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Leo Bersani, Critic of French Literature and Gay Life, Dies at 90

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Leo Bersani, who over a 60-year career as a scholar of modern French literature had a profound influence on art and literary criticism, and who later played a central role in debates about gay and queer identity at the height of the AIDS crisis, died on Feb.

20 at an assisted-living facility in Peoria, Ariz. He was 90. His partner, Sam Geraci, confirmed the death but said the cause had not been determined.

Dr. Bersani was best known for his 1987 essay “Is the Rectum a Grave?,” a dense, polemical critique of the tendency among some gay activists to respond to AIDS by downplaying their sexuality and emphasizing the need to replicate bourgeois heterosexuality.

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