Critical Essays Archive

Considering the Wedding Poem

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One does not take notes from the epithalamium for instructions on how to arrange a wedding, how to make a marriage successful, how to communicate with a loved one. The wedding poem anticipates its continued listening, sometime in the future.

The Transfer of Power in The Lying Life of Adults

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Elena Ferrante often uses objects in her fiction to explore relationships and time, but she also uses them as objective correlatives; while the bracelet in her 2019 novel serves as a way to move the reader through the plot, it is also clearly identified as an object, one that

Death as a Narrator in Assaf Schurr’s Thus Spoke Vincent, the Stupid Cat

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Vincent the dead cat is a wake-up call in Assaf Schurr’s ten-year-old novel, much like a god or a guiding hand pushing the plot along. He speaks inconvenient truths and appears to be omniscient, at least when it comes to the secret lives of the book’s characters.

Late Summer’s Exploration of the Past

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From the beginning to the end of the novel, Luiz Ruffato gives us a moment-by-moment account of his protagonist’s activities, thoughts, and feelings—a stream-of-consciousness narrative in which, as the novel progresses, the character’s memories of the past become more and more prominent.

Gender and the Body in Breasts and Eggs, The Collection, and The Iliac Crest

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Around the world, woman novelists are refocusing narratives about desire, sex, and the body around their own experiences. Some of their stories explore society’s current hang-ups around women’s bodies, some paint a picture of a potential world full of guilt-free pleasure, and some explode the idea of gender determined

Loneliness and Parasocial Relationships in The Woman in the Purple Skirt

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Natsuko Imamura's 2019 novel reads at first glance as a fairly straightforward psychological thriller, with voyeurism is at its center. Imamura, however, also explores a deeper psychological entanglement, stemming from a desire to connect when social interaction feels like an insurmountable barrier.

The Contrapuntal Possibilities in me and Nina

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Monica A. Hand’s 2012 poetry collection is a polyphonic celebration of the multidimensionality of the self. The musician Nina Simone’s echoing impact and the poet’s own life as an artist and Black woman operate as countermelodies, playing across many emotional registers.

Death as the Villain in Pet Sematary

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Beneath the waking nightmares, reanimated children, and mythological Wendigo, Stephen King’s 1983 novel is about a fundamental and universal experience: grief and the fear of death.

The Garbage of Our Time

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A. R. Ammons's 1993 book-length poem, a meditation on excess and waste as the defining trait of our species, anticipated the worst conversations one wishes were avoidable: climate change and a non-hyperbolic global destruction.

John Winthrop, Don Quixote, and Donald Trump’s “Fake News”

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Far from being un-American, Trump’s deployment of the “illusory truth effect” is supremely so. Indeed, it is in lock step with the shady rhetorical strategies employed by Trump’s Puritan forbearer John Winthrop. Like Trump, Winthrop’s hustle depended upon his followers seeing what they actually couldn’t, and unseeing what was