Maggie Nelson: Practices and Problems of Freedom
Freedom, a key term of the emancipatory rhetoric of past eras, seems today like a depleted, imprecise, and often weaponized word. This has led some political philosophers (such as Judith Butler) to refer to our times as “postliberatory” (though, as Fred Moten notes, “preliberatory” might be just as accurate). In this talk, Maggie Nelson will address themes from her most recent book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. The book’s four chapters track current permutations of “freedom” in the realms of art, sex, drugs, and climate. How does the idea of freedom as a future state differ from freedom understood as a present practice? And what are the internal resistances and external forces that complicate the freedom drive? Current mobilizations of the term “freedom” in the realms of art and literature also highlight the problems with attaching “shoulds” to what art does or doesn’t do in the world.
Maggie Nelson is the author of several acclaimed books of poetry and prose, including the forthcoming collection Like Love: Essays and Conversations (2024), the national bestseller On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (2021), the National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011), Bluets (2009; named by Bookforum as one of the top 10 best books of the past 20 years), The Red Parts (2007), Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007), and Jane: A Murder (2005). In 2016 she received a MacArthur ‘genius’ Fellowship. She currently teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles, CA.
The event is part of the Annual Conference at the ZfL Counterworlds. Intervention and Escapism in Times of Turmoil.
With the kind support of the Department of Cultural History and Theory at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Fig. above: © Nicola Chodan