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The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
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‘A superb exploration of the risk and the excitement of change…An exceptional portrait both of a romantic partnership and of the collaboration between Nelson’s mind and heart.’ New Yorker

Winner, 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

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 centre is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes the author’s account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal 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 for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

Maggie Nelson is a poet, a critic, and the author of several nonfiction books, including The Red Parts, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, Bluets, and Jane: A Murder. She teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California.

‘Maggie Nelson slays entrenched notions of gender, marriage and sexuality with lyricism, intellectual brass and soul-ringing honesty.’ Vanity Fair

‘Nelson’s writing is fluid—to read her story is to drift dreamily among her thoughts…She masterfully analyzes the way we talk about sex and gender.’ Huffington Post

‘One of the most intelligent, generous and moving books of the year.’ STARRED review Publishers Weekly

‘A book that will challenge readers as much as the author has challenged herself.’ STARRED review Kirkus Reviews

‘It might require a bit of work but The Argonauts rewards us with an expansive way of considering identity, caretaking, and freedom. Maybe it will change the way think and speak about others and ourselves?’ Emma Watson 

‘So much writing about motherhood makes the world seem smaller after the child arrives, more circumscribed, as if in tacit fealty to the larger cultural assumptions about moms and domesticity; Nelson’s book does the opposite.’ New York Times Book Review

‘A thought-provoking and fascinating read.’ Otago Daily Times

‘A wonderful genre-disregarding beast…Nelson has created a work that lets the reader into the intimate world of her love partnership and family, as well as engaging the intellect.’ Readings

‘I thought about copying down whole passages...Nelson’s writing about gender is pretty wonderful. The reflexivity and circularity of her work resists over-simplifications.’ Lifted Brow

‘A song of praise for everyday, ordinary suburban life and simple pleasures.’ Herald Sun

‘An extraordinary record of a life that could only have been written in the early 21st century…[Nelson] is thoughtful, provoking and concise.’ Stuff NZ

‘Remarkable…Nelson has succeeded in combining self-expression and thinking through in a way that is as fundamental as it is compelling.’ Age/Sydney Morning Herald

‘Nelson is an electrifying writer, and The Argonauts is an intensely personal, fiercely intelligent reflection on marriage, motherhood, desire and family.’ Best Non-Fiction Books of 2016, Readings

‘I found Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts electrifying: a book that invites creative engagement on a level I’ve not encountered in a long time.’ Favourite Feminist Reads of 2016, Feminist Writers Festival 

‘Nelson’s language teeters artfully on the edge of the sayable.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘If the teen years are for experimentation, the twenties are a time for reflection…It’s the kind of book that makes a chaotic, unstable life feel a little more normal.’ Business Insider  

‘Folding queer history and the path of rainbow families into a joyous celebration of language and intellectual thought, it’s the perfect antidote to Trump.’ SBS

‘It looks at life from a feminist perspective. It is about love and marriage, motherhood, pregnancy, birth and family-making, and is fascinating.’ Lily Cole, Hello

‘The Argonauts is a book of borrowing andsharing…an exhilarating tour de force drawing on queer and feminist theory aswell as the personal narrative of Nelson’s family.’ New York Magazine

‘A magnificent achievement of thought, care and art.’ Los Angeles Times 


The Text Publishing Company; April 2016
192 pages; ISBN 9781925410037
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: The Argonauts
Author: Maggie Nelson

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