The Macksey Journal


Life writing traditionally seeks to sort out confusion, trauma, identity, or to serve as memento; in Anne Carson’s Nox, many of these parameters are met while others are broken. I examine the modes by which Nox violates expectations of the genre through her highly marked text, fragmented imagery, and Latin translation, such that the text could more properly be called epitaph rather than narrative. The text was crafted as a scrapbook to honor Carson’s deceased, estranged brother, with whom her relationship was complicated due to his absence. Because Nox primarily focuses on the remnants of his life rather than the author’s, it calls into question the ways in which memory and artifact embody the dislocated subject. Working with reader response theory as well as theories of authorship, I argue that Carson’s Nox rejects the traditional form of “life narrative” and asks the reader to construct the text on their own due to its fragmented nature. The material form of the text, as an accordion book comprised of one long sheet rather than distinct ones folded into leaves, invites the reader to explore and mark the text further as they begin reading. In my essay I show that these idiosyncrasies do not merely disrupt the reader as they read, but rather that they inspire a deeper understanding of mourning and how we memorialize the deceased.