Author Archive

The Cozy Horror of the Fairytale Mode in The Pillowman

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The line between fairytale and other narrative modes is one between distance—emotional and temporal—and immediacy. Martin McDonagh’s 2003 work consistently plays across this line, retreating from and then suddenly foregrounding moments of visceral horror.

The Unexpected Feminism of Elena Ferrante’s Scorned Woman

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In contrast to many other more contemporary narratives, Elena Ferrante’s 2002 novel does not seek to avoid or minimize the pain of a broken marriage by playing into fantasy and wish fulfillment.

Epicurean Happiness in a Post-Post-Apocalyptic World

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Rather than presenting the dystopian vision of a “happy” society in easy opposition to an implied non-dystopic iteration, Nicola Barker interrogates the boundaries between the two, asking if there is, in fact, something desirable in the dystopic vision—and if the alternative—perhaps a society we recognize—is really better.

Art and Power in Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time

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Music is represented in Barnes’ novel, a fictionalized biography of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, as a means of propaganda and control, a means of subverting that propaganda, and as a pure art form, free from the petty politics of history.

The Fiction of Genius

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The social cost of the fiction of genius, which upholds the elite few as inherently more brilliant than everyone else, regardless of underlying biases and inequalities, is unknowable. Helen DeWitt nevertheless captures a sense of this loss across her novel with equal parts fire, humor, and grief.

George Eliot and Wagnerian Opera

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From her earliest encounters with Richard Wagner, George Eliot engaged critically with his work. She praised his mythological themes, his use of leitmotif, and his vision for the future of opera, but admitted to finding his works overlong, and her own musical ear ill-tuned to finding pleasure in his

Difficult Novels

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There is something incredibly patronizing about “readability” being the exclusive domain of the “common reader,” and about the way it continues to inform aspects of literary criticism.

Umberto Eco and the Nature of Europe

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In the tradition of all good historical fiction, the past is a mirror to the problems and preoccupations facing its contemporary audience, and in the case of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, one of those problems is Europe.