The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson

If you ask a PhD candidate studying English literature to name a book that had a profound impact on her life, chances are you’ll receive an impressive list as a response.

Our thirty-first reader’s selections included Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison, everything written by Carson McCullers, and Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) by Claudia Rankine. As the logistics of an interview featuring seven or eight texts ran through my mind (a tempting challenge), our reader settled with authority on The Argonauts (2015), a powerful memoir by American author, poet, and academic Maggie Nelson. She described the text as having a significant impact on her personally, but also professionally as an academic and a teacher.

In this interview we discuss Nelson’s body of work, her inventive and thought-provoking use of language, the blending of the personal and the theoretical, the intricacies of love and pregnancy, and the importance of reading diverse and alternative texts this year.


“I think its fascinating because The Argonauts is essentially grappling with the failures of language to express things that are kind of inexpressible…But just because certain things evade our ability to express them doesn’t mean that we need to give up on writing and give up on language. I just think we need to acknowledge the ways in which it is imperfect.”

Note: This reader runs a wonderful blog about feminism, fashion, and many things in between. Click here to check it out!

What am I reading?:

Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone) by Kamal Al-Solaylee


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