Critical Essays Archive

The Journey to Motherhood in The Art of Waiting and The Rules Do Not Apply

Where are all the books about miscarriage and assisted reproduction, about experiencing the loss of something you never had to begin with?

This Land is My Land, Not Yours

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Hernán Díaz returns to the California Gold Rush in his 2017 novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He shows an America in transition, fixated on the promise of prosperity, power, and property.

The Poetics of Orientation

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Sally Wen Mao’s new collection repeatedly pushes against the notion that a state of being “othered” is necessarily a fixed point of marginalization.

George Eliot and Wagnerian Opera

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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

Amos Oz and Description as Humanism

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Reading and rereading Amos Oz’s work, what strikes me each time is the treasure horde of gimlet-eyed descriptions waiting to be unlocked in every book.

Allegra Goodman and the Ekphrastic Impulse

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Reading with an eye for ekphrasis is reading for moments of productive trouble, spaces where the verbal and the visual clash, each vying for control over a story’s narrative. In these moments of contact, the sublimated desires and anxieties of the characters or narratives often make themselves known.

Sanctuary in Ruins

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
The house is often used as a symbol of security in literature, and a ruined home can speak to what a given writer thinks we need protection from. Both the threats to security, and the emotional impact of a literary ruin shift with the writer and her cultural moment.

The Tent Moment

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Certain writers—often those writers who are said to “transcend their genre”—combine action-filled plots with complex character development. How do they stop the action in, say, a zombie apocalypse, so that the characters can become intimate and so the reader can grow to care about their inner lives?

The Trauma of the Everyday

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Books by Kevin Brockmeier—focusing on the horror of surviving seventh grade—and Buddhist psychotherapist Mark Epstein dissect the trauma of everyday life.

Poetry of the Silver Screen

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Poetry’s bread and butter is the interior; it goes where movies want to go, but can’t, by the nature of the form. So when a poem wants to respond to a film, how does it make use of this tension, and alchemize it into art?