Bioethics Blogs

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts, Graywolf Press, 2015

Writing this review on a plane headed to a conference on queering sexuality, with newly shorn pink hair, I note to myself that I’m hitting a lot of stereotypes. I’m a philosopher, a professor of women studies, a feminist researcher, a parent who identifies as bisexual, and it’s with all these hats on that I’m reading and reviewing Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts.

I’m starting this way because it seems odd to review The Argonauts without any personal detail, though the inclusion of personal information isn’t something I get to do much as an academic philosopher. But The Argonauts is such a personal and philosophical book that it calls for that kind of response from those who read it. I won’t tell you my love stories or tales of my relationship with my pregnant body but I sort of want to. Maybe later I’ll write about that. The Argonauts is a one-person call for combining theory and memoir, and Maggie Nelson does it so very beautifully. I found myself marking passages, messaging friends with quotations from the book, and most of all, reading chunks aloud to people.

If you’d described this book to me I would have sworn I’d hate it. I love literature and I love philosophy but I love them separately. Together seems pretentious, I would have said. Yet, The Argonauts is anything but. It’s a philosophical memoir with lots of ideas but zero footnotes. Instead the names of authors discussed are mentioned in the margins. Readers are left to do their own work though frankly for most of the readers, I suspect they’ll be familiar.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.