Author Archive

Wuthering Heights and Language Play

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What if Emily Brontë’s achievement in her only novel is really its dramatic correlation to her own passage from child actor to adult novelist, serving as a natural extension of her language play, and espousing play as necessary work?

The Secret Horror of The Haunting of Hill House

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A secret horror isn’t magically eradicated because its spoken aloud. Rather, its implications spread, deepen, further infiltrating our complex web of relationships, our motivations, our dreams. In fact, some horrors can’t be named; the words fail us.

Faith and Sycamore

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Kathy Fagan’s newest collection of poetry leans on its eponymous tree’s multi-colored, mottled trunks, its hefty size and spreading canopy, to provide a material figure for perseverance and resurrection, replacing those old images of “angel / wings of gold and mica.”

Visiting Haworth

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From childhood, the Brontë siblings held each other’s intellects in high esteem and together made a web—a story-catcher—out of their own disparate interests, their ideas acting as warp and woof, their mutual love and respect a catalyst for their later works.

The Poetic Instant and Creative Criticism

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I’ve often wondered about the efficacy of my academic training. What good did it do? The definitive effect hasn’t been a breadth of ready knowledge but rather a facility for surprise and a capacity for shaped responses to texts I call “creative criticism.”

The Moral Universe in Ninety-Nine Stories of God

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Fiction writer and essayist Joy Williams wears sunglasses all the time—a fact that might be a walking metaphor. In Williams’ world, it seems, God is also wearing a pair of mirrored sunglasses, and after we tire of making funny faces at ourselves in His lenses, we start to panic.

The Modernism of Henry James’ Washington Square

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James Lipton, theatre director and host of Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, has a pet theory about actors and entertainers he trots out on air from time to time, a theory he bases on hundreds of interviews: children of divorce often become artists—particularly of the theatrical sort. He describes

Horse Poems

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Horses are ghosts. They are living reminders of our preindustrial past. Like ghosts, they remind us of uncomfortable things. For example, twenty-three racehorses have died running the track at Santa Anita since last December.

Edward Albee’s “The Teaching Emotion”

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Albee believed deeply in education. He thought theatre’s job was to teach us something, and he carried that mission into other aspects of his life, like his exacting presence as a director, his occasional stints as an instructor, and his foundation, which offers time, space, and quiet to artists.

“Sometimes you just need to be told about yourself”: An Interview with Erica Dawson

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Heraclitus, the “Weeping Philosopher,” described Sybil as “[a] frenzied mouth [that] utter[s] things not to be laughed at, unadorned and unperfumed, yet reaches to a thousand years with her voice by aid of the god." Erica Dawson’s remarkable new book describes our tumultuous present with all the tenacity of