Arguments for the Uncoupled

239 pages

18 halftones

July, 2012

ISBN: 9780814772553



Also available in


Michael Cobb is Professor of English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence, also published by New York University Press.

All books by Michael Cobb

What single person hasn't suffered? Everyone, it seems, must be (or must want to be) in a couple. To exist outside of the couple is to assume an antisocial position that is ruthlessly discouraged because being in a couple is the way most people bind themselves to the social. Singles might just be the single most reviled sexual minorities today. 
Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled offers a polemic account of this supremacy of the couple form, and how that supremacy blocks our understanding of the single. Michael Cobb reads the figurative language surrounding singleness as it traverses an eclectic set of literary, cultural, philosophical, psychoanalytical, and popular culture objects from Plato, Freud, Ralph Ellison, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Barack Obama, Emily Dickinson, Morrissey, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Hannah Arendt to the Bible, Sex and the City, Bridget Jones' Diary, Beyoncé's “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” and HBO's Big Love. Within these flights of fancy, poetry, fiction, strange moments in film and video, paintings made in the desert, bits of song, and memoirs of hiking in national parks, Cobb offers an inspired, eloquent rumination on the single, which is guaranteed to spark conversation and consideration. 


  • “Searing, radical, playful, exquisite. This is singular, stunning work. Using the rhythms of banter, suggestion, and devilish claims, Cobb pits the brio, the grandeur of singleness against the deadening form of the couple. Prepare to be provoked by a book as beautiful as it is brilliant."

    —Kathryn Bond Stockton, author of The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century

  • “Michael Cobb’s new book, Single, is, pun intended, one of a kind. The book’s main argument, that culture abhors a single, unfolds in an engaging way and is studded with beautifully rendered anecdotes, some of a personal nature. Single will be discussed and read for years to come.”

    —Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

  • "Although the book is deliberately provocative, with its evocations of the couple’s 'steely, enduring logic' and 'toxic emotional restraints,' it’s most helpful to see Cobb’s radical critique not as an ode to unattached monasticism but as suggestions for how the single perspective’s solitude, privacy, and freedom can open up vistas—even in the lives of the happily coupled."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "Single is impressive because its focus is original and discreet and so is his arguments which center heavily on details, at times even the use of single words or on an interpretation."


  • "The author offers a smart and stunning look at the 'moribund desperation' of coupledom."

  • "Using the rhythms of banter, suggestion, and willful claims, even hyperbolic, assertive pronouncements, Cobb creates a unique vantage point from which to assess a remarkable topic, one he nearly makes his own.  Loneliness has been much discussed of late, but singleness has not, not in this way.  The result is an unforgettable mix of witty analysis of pop culture and a targeted dropping of deep, decisive anchors in a few canonical but unexpected texts.  Most impressive, therefore, is Cobb’s deployment of deft transitions that make his switches back and forth between and among discursive registers work—and matter.  With these artfully crafted links, Cobb guides the reader to each new perch.  And if there is a unifying style that paradoxically lubricates and glues together his dynamics, I would call it conversational lyric: a personal tone and direct engagement of the reader that slightly slips that bond to slant past where you thought that Cobb was holding you.”

    Queer Theory