Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between (Paperback)

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Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Literary Hub



A leading microbiologist tackles the scientific and sociopolitical impact of viruses in twelve striking essays.


Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish—with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life.


Osmundson’s buoyant prose builds on the work of the activists and thinkers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis and critical scholars like José Esteban Munoz to navigate the intricacies of risk reduction, draw parallels between queer theory and hard science, and define what it really means to “go viral.” This dazzling multidisciplinary collection offers novel insights on illness, sex, and collective responsibility. Virology is a critical warning, a necessary reflection, and a call for a better future.



About the Author


Joseph Osmundson is a professor of microbiology at New York University. His work has been published in leading biological journals including Cell and PNAS and in the Village Voice, Gawker, the Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. He lives and works in New York City.

Praise For…


Joe Osmundson’s Virology is an incisive look at our relationship to earth’s most plentiful life form — how we live with viruses and how viruses live in and through us. But more than this, it is a compelling examination of the tension between avoidance and exposure, safety and risk, preservation of the self and openness to evolution and change. This book is a potent medicine for our times.

— Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings

Joseph Osmundson's Virology made me gay for viruses. Seriously. Virology is a tour de force that uses queer theory to teach us about the science of viruses. Along the way, we are forced to reckon with the reality that far from being villainous little creatures, viruses are actually fascinating almost-life forms. Virology brilliantly revises the frameworks we use to talk about life in a world filled with viruses and reminds us that our relationship with science and scientific phenomena is always social.

— Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, author of The Disordered Cosmos

I have absolutely no idea how Osmundson made a book this timely, this timeless, this packed with contents and styles we aren't supposed to experience in one text. Virology is devastating in its soulful brilliance. Rigor just became cool as **** and pleasurable again.

— Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Inquisitive, bold, and lyrical, Virology offers a captivating and very queer look at our present moment through the lens of someone who knows more than most of us about the science behind our shared catastrophe.

— Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

To read Joseph Osmundson’s mind at work is such a pleasure. The tendrils of Virology go deep: to the pandemic, queerness, memes, futurity, and what it means to hold both love and despair, to live awake to both the world’s beauty and its harm. This is a profoundly necessary, urgently of-the-moment collection, one I’ll keep thinking about for a long time to come.

— Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

Luckily, we have Joseph Osmundson—an actual virologist—who writes with elegance and insight about the intersection of the real and the metaphorical, moving through topics like the legacy of HIV/AIDS, the long-term impact of Covid variants, and the effects of a prolonged pandemic on our systems of power. This is very much a book of our times.
— Literary Hub
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393881363
ISBN-10: 0393881369
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022
Pages: 336
Language: English