I recently started reading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. It’s good. I wish that I could devote more attention to it, but I find it difficult to read deeply when I’m in the midst of a big writing/story project.
Perhaps the biggest thing that has struck me so far is Nelson’s way of citing her sources. When she’s using someone else’s theory or idea, she puts that theorist’s name in the margin, beside her own text. Sometimes she directly quotes the theorist, sometimes she merely invokes them.
I like this approach. I also like how Moira Donegan describes it in her book review of The Argonauts in n+1:
But the citations fulfill a second purpose, of suggesting a kind of heritage. Weed, Winnicott, Bellamy, Butler, Myles, and the countless others Nelson cites — including Leo Bersani, Anne Carson, Pema Chödrön, Michel Foucault, and above all Sedgwick — are her “many-gendered mothers,” she says, borrowing a phrase from the poet Dana Ward, and with Nelson’s mind on maternity this concept has a vague but meaningful resonance. “I think of citation as a form of family-making,” she has said, and The Argonauts is a project about queer family-making twice over: literally, as it tells the story of Nelson, Harry, and their children, and literarily, in its composition.
I want to think and write more about how Nelson uses citations and whether or not I can play with this technique in my own story project.