Author Archive

The Banality of Evil in The Turn of the Screw

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Henry James’s 1898 novella exists as a sort of literary question not unlike that posed by Hannah Arendt. Are the ghosts in this ghost story actually present, or are they just extensions of its governess’s disordered mind? Or—to put it another way—if evil is present in the narrative, where

Music, Violence, and Joy in They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

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Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2017 essay collection explores a conflict he sees in his own project, perhaps in any endeavor toward joy: how can one write about music, let alone listen to it or make it, when people are dying?

Watching King Lear on Zoom

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Technology (whether we mean social networking, video conferencing, virtual reality, or even language itself) can be both perilous and liberating, an architect of intimacy and an architect of loneliness too.

Kinetic Orality in 1919

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Eve L. Ewing fills her poems with bodies and voices. This interplay between rhythm and language becomes a means by which the marginalized speak; kinetic orality is a response to the recurring nature of systemic racism in that it thrives on both repetition and improvisation.

The Radical Grief of Obit

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The elegies in Victoria Chang’s new collection show us how grief radiates from a central loss inwardly toward self-examination, and outwardly toward collective grief.

The Fancy and Imagination of Herman Melville

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The frolicking of sailors aboard a ship’s deck reminds Herman Melville of young horses, which might lead him to the “gambols” of whales. In associations such as these, Melville shows us the incongruities and false gilding we add to life in order to make it more palatable, less terrifying.

The Angel in the Woods

Emily Dickinson knew that modesty and self-confidence, blended together, would disarm her reader and delight and mystify the people around her. Shirking conventionality offered her a modicum of freedom and enlarged her presence simultaneously; she was both eccentric spinster and white-clad angel, depending on how you saw her.

The Lap as Site of Resistance in Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas

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Layli Long Soldier’s 2017 poetry collection is—beyond its brilliant depiction of colonialism’s legacy—also a book about liminal spaces and stolen time, by which I mean, the dilemma of the mother/maker or mother/artist.

The Art of Conversation in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee

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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s 1982 book confounds expectations at every turn. Specifically, there’s something monumental about the text’s extreme lack of metaphor, its striving toward objective observation, that feels to me—in this moment—absolutely poetic.

America and The River Twice

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Kathleen Graber’s newest collection asks how much her speaker is to blame for what she sees as troubling in American culture, and how identity might be formed in the crucible of condemnation.