Posts Tagged ‘ Nelson ’

What’s the Most Influential Book of the Past 20 Years? – The Chronicle of Higher Education

A Model for the Future

AMITAVA KUMAR
Edward Said’s Orientalism. That was what came to mind first. A book that many would say inaugurated the field of postcolonial studies. But that was 1978, 40 years ago. I was thinking nostalgically. Well, what about Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble? Everyone was reading it when I was in grad school. No, still too early: 1990. The Chronicle Review’s query puts the cutoff date at 1998. I don’t think books loom as large as they did when I was in my youth. (Does every generation think like that?)

Perhaps Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire, a book that everyone I knew not only had a copy of but appeared to have read. The date in this case would work: 2000. The book’s ambition to explain the new global order, and its optimism about the multitudes, gave hope to humanistic thinking. (I’d put Thomas Piketty’s wildly popular Capital in the same bracket.) In a more empirical mode, the titles I can think of from recent years are Evicted, by Matthew Desmond; Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water; and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Here were books that represented a particular kind of triumph: scholarship so trenchant and gripping that it not only sought to affect policy but also reached the widest public audience.

The Argonauts is going to be a model for a lot of writing. We are talking here of a collective shift, something like a revolution.

But really, the most meaningful response I can give is to suggest a title that both represents the arc of the past 20 years and is a model for the near future: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2016). The book is emblematic of a shift that has long been underway in academic writing. It represents the successful, even celebratory, search for an adequate form to mix critical theory with personal experience. Endlessly self-reflexive, Nelson returns the reader again and again to the scene of writing, and in doing this, she achieves a hybrid form that makes nearly transparent how language and mind and bodies, not to mention bodies in transition, are linked.

The Argonauts is going to be a model for a lot of writing we will see in literary studies, feminist studies, queer studies, and allied fields. I have singled Nelson out, but if one thinks of other writers, like Claudia Rankine and Fred Moten, it becomes clear that we are talking here of a collective shift, something like a revolution.

Amitava Kumar’s latest book is Immigrant, Montana (Knopf). He is a professor of English at Vassar College.

Source: What’s the Most Influential Book of the Past 20 Years? – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Four Poems by Maggie Nelson – BOMB Magazine

 

Four Poems Excerpted from sections in the new re-issue of Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull Press)

Source: Four Poems – BOMB Magazine