Maggie Nelson

Los Angeles, CA

Described as “genre-busting” by Michael Miller of Time Out New York, Maggie Nelson is the author of eight books. Her nonfiction includes The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, a work of art and cultural criticism which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Bluets, an unclassifiable prose work about the color blue, inspired by Goethe and Wittgenstein; The Red Parts: A Memoir, a work of autobiography and reportage about a 2005 homicide trial affecting the writer’s family; and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions, a work of art and literary criticism about women poets and painters associated with the New York School. Nelson’s 2005 mixed-genre book, Jane: A Murder, told the story of the 1969 murder of her mother’s sister. She is also the author of three collections of lyric poetry. Nelson holds a PhD in English Literature from CUNY. In 2005, she moved from New York City to join the faculty at CalArts, where she has taught a wide variety of courses in art, literature, writing, theory and cultural studies. Nelson received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2016.

The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson

Artist Bio

The Argonauts is a book that combines autobiography and theoretical inquiry to address issues of gender, queerness, family-making, identity and the limitations and possibilities of language. At its heart lie D. W. Winnicott’s ideas of “good enough” mothering and ordinary devotion, Wittgenstein’s idea of ordinary language as being “all right,” the critique of paranoid logic and celebration of the reparative as offered by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and related ruminations on happiness and freedom. In form, The Argonauts is essentially a long essay, which contains within it the story of the author’s pregnancy, running alongside that of her partner’s gender transition. In spirit, The Argonauts belongs to what Wayne Koestenbaum has recently termed (writing about Herve Guilbert) the “philosophically inclined subset of body-smeared literature.”

Graywolf Press published the book in 2015, and it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

Award Year