Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making. Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson's insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.
Maggie Nelson was born in 1973 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1994 and a PhD from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2004. She is the author of the poetry collections Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull Press, 2007), Jane: A Murder (Soft Skull Press, 2005), The Latest Winter (Hanging Loose Press, 2003), and Shiner (Hanging Loose Press, 2001). Nelson has also published several works of lyrical prose, including The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015), which received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Bluets (Wave Books, 2009). Of Bluets, the poet Rob Schlegel writes, “The result not only defies easy categorization, but also leans toward Walter Benjamin’s famous declaration that all great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one.” Nelson has also received fellowships from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. She currently teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner, the artist Harry Dodge.