Critical Essays Archive

The Alchemy of Poetry Plus Criticism

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What is the goal of poetry? Is it to make music with language? To express feeling? To make an argument? It’s likely, for any given poet, to be at least one of these things—and possibly all.

The Lost Generation’s Women: Writers, Muses, and Supporters

The generation straddled wars, genres, and identities, leaving behind the staid writing of Edwardians, or what Hemingway referred to as “broad lawns and narrow minds.” Gertrude Stein was their godmother, acting as both an artist and a supporter of the arts.

Washington, Real and Imagined 

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So much of the political news from the nation’s capital seems, these days, stranger than fiction.

Matriarchy and the Tired Assassin

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Much like its predecessor, Dishonored 2 is a steampunk revenge story painted in vintage graphic design tones combining genre conventions of sci-fi, supernatural fantasy, historical fiction, and action RPG into a stunning nine-chapter video game novella that is as gory and interactive as it is inventive and derivative.

Speaking for Everyone, Speaking for No One: The Question of (APIA) Canonicity

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The Western canon has no objective nomination process, which is why it is both axiomatic and controversial. But why have APIA voices been erased from the so-called “Great Books” for so long, and how should APIA writers respond to this longstanding erasure?

The Arc of Joan Didion and Annie Dillard

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In my mind, Joan Didion and Annie Dillard are linked, two sides to the same coin, one the yin to the other’s yang. This is unfair to both women.

Your Connected Notebook: The Instagram of Eileen Myles

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Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist, performer and art journalist who ran a write-in candidacy for president twenty-five years ago when the bulk of our presidential candidates were straight, white, male, and wealthy. But you wouldn’t know any of this from their Instagram page, where their bio reads, simply,

Seeking Amnesty in an Epidemic

Octavia Butler’s short story “Amnesty” is a tale in which an invasive species, called Communities, occupies desert areas on Earth and tests, uses, hires, and even “enfolds” (a sort of cocoon-like cuddle) humans for comfort and resources.

Review: WRITING HARD STORIES by Melanie Brooks

Sharply written, these intimate and insightful exchanges dispel the myth that perhaps we all, writers or not, have come to believe about our own narratives, our own lives: “The worst story that we can tell ourselves is that we are alone.”

Author Worship

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The Canadian literary scene has been tumultuous lately, following Stephen Galloway’s dismissal from UBC following allegations of sexual assault.