Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

The 2021 Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize is now open for submissions via Submittable through August 31, 2021.

On Freedom

Four Songs of Care and Constraint
Maggie Nelson
So often deployed as a jingoistic, even menacing rallying cry, or limited by a focus on passing moments of liberation, the rhetoric of freedom both rouses and repels. Does it remain key to autonomy, justice, and well-being, or is freedom’s long star turn coming to a close? Does a continued obsession with the term enliven and emancipate, or reflect a deepening nihilism (or both)? On Freedom examines such questions by tracing the concept’s complexities in four distinct realms: art, sex, drugs, and climate.
Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Maggie Nelson explores how we might think, experience, or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. Her abiding interest lies in ongoing “practices of freedom” by which we negotiate our interrelation with—indeed, our inseparability from—others, with all the care and constraint that entails, while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion.
For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture—from recent art-world debates to the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation, from the painful paradoxes of addiction to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis—is itself a practice of freedom, a means of forging fortitude, courage, and company. On Freedom is an invigorating, essential book for challenging times.

Share Title

Publication Date
Trim Size
6 x 9

An expansive, exhilarating work of criticism by one of the most significant writers of our day

About the Author

Maggie  Nelson
Credit: Harry Dodge

Maggie Nelson is the author of several books of poetry and prose, most recently the New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Argonauts. She teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

More by author

Upcoming Events

VIRTUAL: Maggie Nelson reading and in conversation about ON FREEDOM: FOUR SONGS OF CARE AND CONSTRAINT, presented by Point Reyes Books

Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station, CAview map

7:00 PM PT / 9:00 PM CT / 10:00 PM ET. This event is free and open to the public, with a sliding scale of $0 - $100 donation suggested. This event will be broadcast via Crowdcast. Conversation partner to be announced. Click here for more information and to register. Copies of On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint can be purchased from Point Reyes Books.

VIRTUAL: Maggie Nelson reading and in conversation with Danzy Senna on ON FREEDOM, part of the Women You Need to Know Series presented by Seattle Arts and Lectures

Seattle Arts & Lectures in Seattle, WAview map
6 PM PT / 8 PM CT / 9 PM ET. Tickets are available at pay-what-you-can pricing ranging from $10 - $100. Click here for more information and to register


  • "Having previously tackled the subjects of queer family, sexual violence, and the color blue, Nelson turns her attention to a subject that has become particularly fraught in the American consciousness: freedom. In her latest book of literary theory, the unofficial prose-poet laureate of Art Queers everywhere meditates on what topics like addiction, climate crisis, and sexual liberation teach us about what it means to truly be free."Harper's Bazaar
  • “[Maggie Nelson] traces the limits of liberty and the call to care in this expansive and sharp-eyed study. . . . Nelson turns each thought until it is finely honed and avoids binaries and bromides. While the literary theorizing is rich, this account soars in its ability to find nuance in considering questions of enormous importance. . . . Once again, Nelson proves herself a masterful thinker and an unparalleled prose stylist.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “A top cultural critic plucks the concept of freedom away from right-wing sloganeers and explores its operation in current artistic and political conversations. . . . The subtlety of Nelson's analysis and energy of her prose refresh the mind and spirit.”Kirkus Reviews
  • "Maggie Nelson is an expert at distilling whatever topic she tackles into crystalline prose. She is the queen of the effortless jumping off point, catapulting her readers into the far reaches of Big Questions."—Lit Hub
Back to Table of Contents