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The Argonauts

Maggie Nelson


For Roland Barthes and Maggie Nelson, the Argo is the ship of love, a vessel continuously repaired and reconstructed through the desires of the Argonauts and their determination to secure love on their own terms. Nelson’s particular ship is constructed around the intersection of theoretical texts and life as it is lived in malls and doctors’ offices, backyards and lecture halls. Writing in short episodic and analytical bursts, Nelson transforms memoir into a larger discussion of gender, family, and representation. But it is the Argonauts themselves, Nelson and her partner Harry Dodge, who turn the ship into a story as they continuously push the transgender love that is their life beyond what they know, beyond the parameters of discursive knowledge, beyond one answer or the other.

      The compassionate wisdom of D.W. Winnnicott and the determined opposition of Eve Sedgewick come in handy, but Nelson and Dodge always seem to find themselves in uncharted waters: the checkout person who confounds expectations, the duration of childbirth, the sexuality that has changed forever, or maybe not. For Nelson, texts are less a set of rules than one part of a dynamic discussion that includes the unpredictability of the world and the unforeseen consequences of our own decisions. There is compromise and stubbornness and constant struggle, but love always seems to find a way. No matter the situation, Nelson retains a sweetness and tenderness and openness of heart that seems almost as impossible as the book’s almost happy ending. But it isn’t. It’s the sound of another fearless voice telling the world that whatever the odds, hate won’t win.

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