Writing Freedom – and Its Constraints


February 28, 2019 / 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley, CA

Maggie Nelson, Professor of English, University of Southern California

Maggie Nelson, the 2018-19 Una’s Lecturer, is joined in conversation by UC Berkeley faculty member Nadia Ellis (English).

A 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Nelson is professor of English at the University of Southern California. A poet, critic, and nonfiction writer, she is the author of The Argonauts, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Her other books include four collections of poetry, and The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, which explores the aftermath of the 1969 murder of Nelson’s aunt and the trial, held decades later, of a suspect in the case.

Nelson is currently at work on a book exploring the idea of “freedom” in a variety of contemporary discourses and contexts, including sexual freedom, drug discourse, climate reckoning, and the art world. She talks with Nadia Ellis, associate professor of English and author of Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora.

Public University, Public Values is a new series of talks and conversations co-organized by BCSR and the Townsend Center for the Humanities. The series is prompted by the recognition that the current moment of crisis in the liberal democracies of Europe and North America is, among other things, a crisis of value. The “political” focus that has shaped the humanities and much of the social sciences over the past several decades has made possible an extraordinary body of scholarship and teaching.  Yet it has often left unexplored the moral terrain on which the current crisis has unfolded. The aim of the series is to open up new perspectives on how the humanities and the social sciences do, or don’t, help us develop our own moral and ethical vocabularies. Implicit in these conversations would be how we, as scholars and teachers, do or don’t include moral and ethical concerns in our teaching and—no less important—how these concerns might be placed in dialogue with the political emphases that have guided much of our work in the past few decades as a way of reaffirming the dynamism and importance of humanistic study for the larger social fabric.

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic, and nonfiction author of books such as The Art of Cruelty: A ReckoningBluets, and Jane: A Murder. The recipient of the 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

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