Notes towards & Maggie Nelson’s Rhetorical Fictions
: A study of Bluets

  • Manuela Moser

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis comprises a poem titled ‘Notes Towards’ (72 pages), a bridging statement titled ‘On writing about my grandfather’ (6,641 words) and a study of American poet Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets (2009) titled ‘Maggie Nelson’s Rhetorical Fictions: A Study of Bluets’ (24,599 words excl. bibliography).

The central theme, that of the exploration of narrative long-form poetry and the space between poetry, memoir, autobiography and criticism, ties together the creative and the critical components.

The creative component, Notes Towards, is a narrative long-form poem. It uses poetic practices such as docupoetics and an engagement with archival material, to explore a family history and questions of nationality. It is an exploration of how to realise a story.

The critical component analyses Maggie Nelson’s Bluets in order to better understand the long-form narrative poem. The thesis begins by exploring the use of docupoetics in Nelson’s earlier work, Jane: A Murder and The Red Parts. The thesis then turns to consider Bluets as a prose poem, exploring the ways in which Nelson revises the boundaries of the genre. These include her fragmentation and complication of the lyrical ‘I’ and the disruption and incorporation of non-poetic linguistic discourses into the matter of poetry in order to create narrative. The thesis identifies two prose genres in Bluets, the philosophical treatise and the essay, and explores how Nelson’s exploitation of these genre conventions produces a poem that is subversive and playful, mimicking the language and tone of the essay and using a philosophical treatise as the overarching structure, enabling Nelson’s unique propositional poem to come into being.

Poems from 'Notes Towards' and the bridging statement 'On writing about my grandfather' on pp.1-98 are embargoed and subject to future review decision on 31 December 2025.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsUK AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorLeontia Flynn (Supervisor) & Ian Sansom (Supervisor)

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