Critical Essays Archive

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Prescient Apocalyptic Novel

Deeply depressed and living in a Europe ravaged by war, famine, and cholera, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was inspired to write an eerily prescient novel chronicling the end of the world that manages somehow to be both bleak and hopeful. In the face of seemingly insurmountable tragedy, perhaps that is

An End, Always Happening

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In the hyperbole of “apocalypse,” in the rhetorical design that anticipates a time predicted forever, a poem that meditates on the end of the world situates itself somewhere between prophecy and historical memory. An end has been ongoing—and changing—since the first mention of the end.

Women’s Bodies and Constellations: Reflections from Life

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
The portrayal of women’s bodies in Irish literature, and in wider society, has created an impossible contradiction. Irish author and critic Sinéad Gleeson’s debut essay collection, chronicling life in the human body as it experiences illness, love, grief, and motherhood, however, marks a contribution that will widen our understanding

The Power of Women in Matrix

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
The protagonist of Lauren Groff’s new novel, Marie, watches her mother, grandmother, aunts, and queen exercise power before finally learning to wield it herself. Despite the book’s setting in medieval times, Marie’s plight feels similar to how women must take and assert power even now.

Piranesi’s Disenchanted World

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Susanna Clarke’s 2020 novel speaks both to the impossibility of truly reenchanting the world and the desperate desire to do so.

The Creation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Despite the memoir’s rigorous production method, Jean-Dominique Bauby’s mind wanders throughout the book, resulting in the vivid connection between his present and his past.

Pop Song and the Literary Breakup Album

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Larissa Pham’s new collection reads like a beautiful, literary breakup album, each essay operating as its own track. By the time you’ve turned the final pages, you want nothing more than to flip the metaphorical album over, drop the needle, and begin again.

Dybek, Shalamov, and Condensed Milk

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
The transformation of milk into preserved milk is a magic trick of sorts, a way to extend the life of a perishable product. Although in very different ways, Varlam Shalamov’s “Condensed Milk” and Stuart Dybek’s “Pet Milk” are interested in considering man’s ability to do the same.

The Importance of Writing About Art

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In the face of urgent calls for social action, Olivia Laing’s 2020 collection of criticism makes a case for art’s slow, subtle efficacy. And in her acuity as a critic, she demonstrates that not only art, but writing about art, can be a powerful agent of social change.

The Interfaith Poetics of Pilgrim Bell

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
For readers who share his sensitivity to the spiritual, Kaveh Akbar forges an interfaith poetics based on shared humanity and sharply rendered difference, manifested in an ethics of interruption. We find each other, the collection seems to say, in our shared search for the divine, wounded and harnessing the