Critical Essays Archive

The Impossible Citizen in Jill Magi’s SPEECH

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In Magi’s book-length poem, which revives a cosmopolitan way of being that has gone out favor, textures of physical borders are examined as speech while actual speeches are recovered from books and archives to reveal ways we might begin to comprehend the borders that entrap us.

Ander Monson’s Essaying

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Monson’s newest collection, out tomorrow, continues his exploration of essays and essaying, scrutinizing the “I”; playing with prose and white space on the page; and examining the nature of memory—all while suffusing his observations with the cultural elements he examines in earlier collections.

Becoming One’s Mother: Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen Trilogy

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Devastatingly, Tove Ditlevsen’s three-part memoir suggests that acquiring a room of one’s own and becoming a successful writer does not preclude sharing the fate of one’s mother.

Qiu Miaojin’s Groundbreaking Notes of a Crocodile

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Qiu was daring enough to be the first to portray queer relationships in Asian literature, and her first novel has become something of a cult classic due to its transgressive nature. Its literary merit does not, however, merely rest on its ground-breaking laurels.

Denise Levertov’s Politics and Poetics

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More often than not, Levertov claimed she was not whichever appellation had come to her doorstep. But her objections have more to do with the consequences of public identity than her actual political orientation, which was a lifelong commitment to poetry as but one form of protest.

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.

Facing the Jackpot with William Gibson

As we move toward an inevitable-seeming apocalypse, Rachael Nevins turns to three of Gibson’s novels, hoping to assuage her fear and sort through her disorientation.

Reading The Paper Menagerie

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Ken Liu’s 2011 collection includes a wide array of stories, ranging in style from speculative to science fiction to magical realism; it’s also a prime example of a work that shifts focus away from genre tropes and allows the reader to see what these stories look like through a

The Mechanization of Violence in Animalia

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Through etymological conversion, our minds have come to separate “flesh” from “meat,” sublimating the violent methods necessary to render bodies into food and making us believe we know with certainty what separates our own bodies from the bodies that we destine to be eaten.

Infatuation and Imaginative Language

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Lovesickness of the kind Cynthia Ozick describes is intimately linked with language. The essay, both in content and form, suggests that the beauty and purpose of infatuation is in its generation of language, a purpose particularly fruitful for a writer.