Maggie Nelson

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Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson at the San Francisco Public Library
Maggie Nelson at the San Francisco Public Library
Born1973 (age 45–46)
Alma mater
  • Non-fiction
  • poetry
  • memoir
  • theory
Notable awardsMacArthur Fellow
SpouseHarry Dodge

Maggie Nelson (born 1973) is an American writer. She is generally described as a genre-busting writer defying classification, working in autobiography, art criticism, theory, scholarship, and poetry.[1][2][3] Her honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship in Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, and an Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant.

Life and career[edit]

Nelson studied English at Wesleyan University where she was taught by Annie Dillard.[3] At the CUNY Graduate Center she wrote a dissertation with the title Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions, which was published by the University of Iowa Press in 2007. In it, she explores the heteronormative nineteen-fifties and sixties New York Abstract Expressionist painting and poetry and calls attention to independent female artists, like Joan Mitchell, and gay male poets, like James Schuyler and Frank O'Hara. [4] Nelson has taught at the Graduate Writing Program of the New School, Wesleyan University, the School of Art and Design at Pratt Institute, and CalArts; she is currently a Professor of English at USC.[5][4][6]

Nelson has written five nonfiction books and four books of poetry. The Argonauts (2015) won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and was a New York Times best-seller. The Art of Cruelty, a work of cultural, art, and literary criticism, was featured on the front cover of the Sunday Book Review of the New York Times and named a NY Times Notable Book of the Year.[7] Her 2009 book Bluets, about pain, pleasure, and the color blue became a cult classic,and was named by Bookforum as one of the 10 best books of the past 20 years.[8]

Nelson has been the recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship,[9] a 2012 Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a 2011 NEA Fellowship in Poetry, a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, and a 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant.


Nelson's work has included writing on art, feminism, queerness, sexual violence, the history of the avant-garde, aesthetic theory and philosophy.[10] She has addressed a number of autobiographical themes in her work. Her memoir about her family, media spectacle, and sexual violence, titled The Red Parts, is the second of two books she wrote about the 1969 murder of her aunt, Jane Mixer.[11] The Argonauts documents a period in time in which Nelson's partner, Harry Dodge, is taking testosterone and having a double mastectomy, and Nelson is pregnant with their son.[1] The book explores themes like the body, gender fluidity, and love through memoir and theory.[1] Bluets is a meditation on the color blue, but also details Nelson's recovery from a break-up while caring for a friend who had been rendered quadriplegic.[12] Her writing is inspired by other feminist writers including Eileen Myles, Wayne Koestenbaum, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, James Schuyler and Allen Ginsberg. She describes her book The Argonauts as a "a long tribute to the many feminist heroes that I had as teachers, men as well as women" to whom she refers to as "the many gendered mothers of my heart",[3] a phrase she borrows from poet Dana Ward.

Personal life[edit]

Nelson is married to the artist Harry Dodge. The couple has a child together. Nelson is the stepmother of Dodge's son from a previous relationship.[13]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Shiner (Hanging Loose Press, 2001). OCLC 45223536
  • The Latest Winter (Hanging Loose Press, 2003). OCLC 50868215
  • Jane: A Murder (Soft Skull, 2005). OCLC 57506563
  • The Red Parts: A Memoir (Free Press, 2007). OCLC 71275645
  • Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull, 2007). OCLC 148844319
  • Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (University of Iowa Press, 2007). OCLC 609313973
  • Bluets (Wave Books, 2009). OCLC 303931395
  • The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011). OCLC 668194794
  • The Argonauts (Graywolf Press 2015). OCLC 889165103


  1. ^ a b c Als, Hilton (2016-04-11). "Maggie Nelson's Many Selves". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  2. ^ Kipnis, Laura (2011-07-14). "Book Review - The Art of Cruelty - By Maggie Nelson". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  3. ^ a b c Laity, Paul (2016-04-02). "Maggie Nelson interview: 'People write to me to let me know that, in case I missed it, there are only two genders'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  4. ^ a b Hilton, Als (April 18, 2016). "Immediate Family: Maggie Nelson's life in words". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ "Maggie Nelson | Faculty/Staff Directory". Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  6. ^ "Maggie Nelson > Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature > USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  7. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2011". The New York Times. 2011-11-21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  8. ^ "The Oyster Review". Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  9. ^ a b "Maggie Nelson — MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved 2016-09-22.
  10. ^ Larson, Thomas (24 January 2011). "Now, Where Was I? : On Maggie Nelson's Bluets". TriQuarterly. Northwestern University. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  11. ^ Cooke, Rachel (2017-05-21). "Maggie Nelson: 'There is no catharsis… the stories we tell ourselves don't heal us'". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  12. ^ Francis, Gavin (2017-06-08). "Bluets by Maggie Nelson review – heartbreak and sex in 240 turbocharged prose poems". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  13. ^ "The Guardian". Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  14. ^ MFA Program News and Events Archived 2011-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ National Endowment of the Arts 2011 Poetry Fellows Archived 2010-11-27 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2015". The New York Times. 2015-11-27. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  17. ^ Alexandra Alter (March 17, 2016). "'The Sellout' Wins National Book Critics Circle's Fiction Award". New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2016.

External links[edit]