Critical Essays Archive

The Power of Reading

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For Ocean Vuong, Jesmyn Ward, and Jaquira Diaz, reading and writing became necessities early on when their classrooms, families, and streets confined them, left them feeling othered and uncertain of their identities.

Shakespeare’s Scheming Women

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Before Lady Macbeth took center stage as Shakespeare’s leading femme fatale, the bard experimented with a number of scheming women, most notably in his first works: the trio of history plays covering the tumultuous reign of Henry VI.

Child Sexuality and the Never Filmed Scene in Stephen King’s It

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There is a part of King’s iconic novel that has been left out of both of its film chapters (as well as previous adaptations). And while I understand and agree with the filmmakers’ decision to leave it out, I admit I would be awed by anyone who attempted to

“Unassimilation” and Nabarun Bhattacharya’s Harbart

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Writing within the form of the novel yet against its western traditions, Bhattacharya’s presence in the international English literary sphere beckons the reader to look closer into the chaos.

Edens and Heavens in Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris

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The gardens that compose Glück’s 1992 Pulitzer-winner collection feel at times too beautiful, too lush, to be real, if reality means possessing a terrestrial existence. But they are not exactly Edens: they are not in nor of heaven—at least not the heaven the gardener imagines.

Memoirs of American Ballet

Two memoirs by famous twentieth century ballet dancers, Suzanne Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland, enter into the ballet canon women’s experiences working with George Balanchine, explaining not only how he saw them, but how they saw themselves.

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.”

Remembering Henry Bromell

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I met the screenwriter and novelist Henry Bromell, born on this date in 1947, through Tillie Olsen in 1973.

Reading and Writing to a Home

I read Bryan Washington’s debut short story collection as I helped my family pack up my childhood home in Miami. I had moved to New Orleans over eight years before—close enough to drive back down, but still three states and a world away.

Reading The Refugee Summer

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Edward Fenton’s 1982 novel is perhaps one of the better fictional accounts of living at the privileged periphery of a political and then refugee crisis. Importantly, it is also a children’s novel.