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The Maggie Nelson Seminar – Exercise #1- Ghost Book

We hope you’ve enjoyed the Tin House Seminar: Maggie Nelson thus far. For those of you just discovering this, please follow the link for a full description of the project.

Last week, the seminar delved into Bluets. There was an amazing amount of user generated supplementary material added to the forum, well worth a look for those of you who have read the book or are just catching up. This week, we get our first writing assignment!

Exercise #1: Ghost Book Narrative

Many of my books have a kind of “ghost book,” a book that secretly—or not so secretly, as the case may be—stands behind my book, not just as its muse, but often as its literal stylistic and/or structural model.  … In the case of Philosophical Investigations and Bluets, the leaning against not only entailed working from Wittgenstein’s ideas qua ideas but also involved lifting concrete sentence constructions, locutions, and so on.  But there are insurmountable differences between us, which made the lifting productive.  —Maggie Nelson, “A Sort of Leaning Against,” Writer’s Notebook II: Craft Essays from Tin House, p. 94


Using as your ghost book a text selected from The Public Domain Review—or, if you like, another text entirely—write a 2-3 page piece that “leans against” the ghost book in whatever way(s) you choose. Make sure to check out the Maggie Nelson Seminar Blog for updates and discussions regarding exercise #1 (and all things Maggie Nelson!).

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