Critical Essays Archive

The Anxiety of Middle-Age in Welcome to Sonnetville, New Jersey

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Craig Morgan Teicher’s newest collection is preoccupied with the anxiety of being understood, and the way that desperation pulses underneath what is explicitly spoken.

The Foreboding Landscape in The Impudent Ones

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In her debut novel, Marguerite Duras builds a visceral sense of foreboding through the beautiful and unnerving landscapes in the life of protagonist Maud Grant, who is both captivated by the land around her, and often swiftly shut off from it.

Mapmaking and Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry

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Joy Harjo’s signature project as the twenty-third U.S. Poet Laureate is one of mapmaking: gathering poems by forty-seven Native Nations poets in a cartography of voice. This poetic map acknowledges other maps of colonial violence and erasure, and while poetry can offer no full answer to the pain, it

A Small Place and the Attempts to Ban Critical Race Theory

There is a key part of A Small Place in which Kincaid writes about how people like her, who come from colonized homes, struggle with their past. “Do you ever try to understand why people like me cannot get over the past, cannot forgive and cannot forget?” she asks.

Making Men and Myths in Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller

Storytelling is foundational to our concept of ourselves, with personal narratives—those we speak aloud and those we tell to only ourselves—defining the shape of our lives and casting us in various roles as circumstances demand: champion or victim, villain or avenger.

The Monolithic, Unforgiving Group Narrator

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“A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, and “The Little Widow from the Capital,” by Yohanca Delgado, both feature the first-person-plural point of view. In both stories, the group narrator is insular, one-directional, one-dimensional, monolithic, and unforgiving in judging a woman.

The Parallel Narrative Arc in Memorial

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In Bryan Washington’s first novel, photos are used, in part, to consider how we use images to communicate. They also work together to create a narrative arc that echoes the arc of the book itself.

Authorship and Betrayal in To Write As If Already Dead

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Given its fragmented structure, intertextuality, quotations from and reflections on correspondences, and inclusion of the narrative of a pregnancy, Kate Zambreno’s newest book feels like a “library of the mind,” encompassing texts on reading, writing, authorship, friendship, betrayal, the body, birth, and death.

Fox & I and the Power of Unusual Friendships

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Catherine Raven’s friendship with a fox that wanders onto her property highlights the challenges she’s struggled with for years—an urge to isolate in a world that celebrates civilization, a belief in magic in a world of scientific inquiry, and a strong intuition that what is most common isn’t necessarily

Cruelty’s Resonant Line

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Ai’s complex depictions, in her 1970 collection of poetry, of contradictory emotions, desperation, character triangles, and speakers driven to and past the brink of perpetrating harm work because she employs minimalism in her poetic devices, including heavy use of the end-stopped line.