Series Archive

Fiction Responding to Fiction: Katherine Mansfield and Ali Smith

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Could there be a better way to pay homage to an author than to include the writer as a character in the fiction? In Ali Smith’s story “The Ex-Wife,” included in her collection Public Library and Other Stories, the writer Katherine Mansfield is the other woman.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

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In September of 1954, two hundred and fifty years after castaway Alexander Selkirk gazed upon his own desert island, William Golding publishes Lord of the Flies about a group of British schoolboys stranded on a tropical island.

Imagining the Anthropocene: The Corporeal Poetics of Marianne Boruch’s Cadaver, Speak

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In her book Cadaver, Speak, Boruch engages in a corporeal self-study through figure drawing, art history, and medical anatomy. From inside her own “bonehouse,” Boruch builds a poetics of embodiment, suturing her firsthand observation to the cultural paradigms that have marked our language.

Stories Strangely Told: Stories That Break Their Molds

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There are stories that break from patterns, and stories that pull so hard at their stitching that they unravel themselves in the process.

The Limits and Freedoms of Literary Regionalism: The Power of Repeated Setting and Statement in August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle”

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For August Wilson, his hometown of Pittsburgh was the setting for nine of his ten plays; his complete oeuvre thus earning the moniker “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” Each play is set in a different decade, allowing Wilson to examine the black experience across different times, but in the same place.

Confronting Our Environmental Apocalypse: Beauty and the Japanese Tradition

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One of the many things I have found so moving and gripping about classical Japanese literature is how concrete the worldview is. Here is a sensibility that is deeply enmeshed in the world and looks for beauty in the imperfections of nature, in the corrosive effects of time.

Imagining the Anthropocene: Danez Smith’s “summer, somewhere”

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Danez Smith’s second book of poems, Don’t Call Us Dead, takes up the project of rehumanizing black lives, reshaping lament into forward-looking prophecy. The collection’s opening epic poem, “summer, somewhere,” acts as a book of re-creation, turning premature mortality into a revived, embodied love drawn from the earth itself.

Indies Elsewhere: Tragaluz

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It is no easy feat to nurture a literary project while far away from the epicenter of publishing activity, yet Tragaluz has made it work in a spectacular manner.

The Black Aesthetic: God, Materialism, and Prosperity in Meek Mill’s Wins & Losses

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Meek Mill’s latest album Wins & Losses confronts what it means to be a young black American. With songs such as “Young Black America,” Meek questions whether the black church has turned its back on the black youth.

Confronting Our Environmental Apocalypse: India’s Ancient Epic, the Mahābhārata

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With origins dating back more than two thousand years, the Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata began as a collection of myths and stories that over the course of several centuries, came to be unified in a meandering and wildly digressive work.