Critical Essays Archive

Revisiting Alice Munro’s “Material”

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Munro raises questions about the relationship between two things that often coincide in writers: the first is a certain amount of self-indulgence and self-mythologizing; the second is the difficult work of putting aside the ego and observing the world.

Desire in John Wray’s Godsend

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Aden Grace Sawyer, the young white American woman inspired by John Walker Lindh who leads John Wray’s latest novel, is on a mission from God.

Cruelty in Literature

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
What do we learn from new depictions of brutalized bodies in literature?

Civil War Christmas Traditions in Little Women

Christmas calls the sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s novel to reflect on their bonds with each other and their parents, and on the kinds of lives they want to lead.

Levity and Storytelling in A Christmas Carol

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
With the indefinite article “a,” Dickens seems to declare that the story is not about a carol, but is, instead, itself a Christmas carol: a song for the season.

Sentinels of Grief in The Friend

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
The Great Dane in Sigrid Nunez’s acclaimed novel embodies grief itself—a presence that comes uninvited, demands attention, disrupts routine, behaves inscrutably, and holds the power of ferocity and tenderness at once.

Yesterday is Tomorrow in Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come for Us

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In Fatimah Asghar’s acclaimed 2018 debut, the past is the present is the future. History, particularly the traumatic history of diaspora, echoes deafeningly through the narrator’s present-day pain, joy, oppression, and affirmation.

The Transformative Magic of Reading Living Writers

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Poetry reading isn’t increasing because people are rediscovering Edna St. Vincent Millay or Robert Hayden, though rediscoveries may be a happy byproduct of readers’ increased exposure to living writers.

The Power of a Woman’s Voice

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Lilliet Berne, the orphan turned courtesan turned opera star who serves as the protagonist of Alexander Chee’s 2016 novel, embodies the complicated interchange of power and weakness that accompanies a woman’s silence.

Domestic Whimsy in Fascism’s Shadow

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Natalia Ginzburg’s 1963 novel is a record of a lost world and a lost way of life. Its insistently domestic narrative style, in its humanizing particularity, is also an act of resistance against the ascendant totalitarian ideologies looming over its characters’ lives.