Critical Essays Archive

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.

Gender Euphoria in Frankissstein

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Contrary to the arguments made for the total disembodiment of humanity through digital consciousness, the protagonist in Jeanette Winterson’s 2019 novel presents a striking argument for remaining in human bodies: gender euphoria.

Birds as Metaphor in Birds of Maine and Big Questions

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What Michael DeForge and Anders Nilsen have managed to do is highlight some of humanity’s best traits—and reflect them back to us through the use of these flighty, flittering creatures. Life is beautiful, they seem to be pleading. Take a moment to look at things from a different perspective.

Hurricane Diane’s Exploration of Discomfort, Capitalism, and Our Climate Crisis

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Madeline George's 2017 play lays bare a difficult reality: that any meaningful action on climate change will be uncomfortable, that it's dangerous to avoid discomfort, and that there are many for whom comfort is the only thing they can cling to in the boxed in world of late capitalism.

Anaphora and Propaganda in The Mother/Child Papers

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Propaganda is inevitably all about power, and Alicia Suskin Ostriker both describes and questions power dynamics in her 1980 collection—from the power of nation states to wage war, to the ever-shifting power that children and parents have over each other.

Bridget Jones’s Anxiety

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Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel uses the journal format for its intense relatability, leading to a claustrophobic portrayal of the intrusive nature of societal expectations that never lets up, even when its heroine finds herself pulled into madcap office romances and a time-share embezzlement scheme.

Authorial and Historical Absence in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

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Michelle McNamara’s authorial absence mirrors the lack of emotional closure in the case of the Golden State Killer, both in the historical moment when her book was being composed and the perpetrator was still unidentified, and post-conviction, when comprehension still remains out of reach.

The Artist as Writer

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In 1973, Kusama Yayoi returned to Japan from New York and began experimenting with poetry and fiction.

Capitalism, Racism, and Misogyny in Natasha Brown’s Assembly

Brown’s debut novel is a slow-motion tragedy, all the weight of four hundred years coming to bear on one woman and the heartbreaking clarity with which she narrates exactly what that feels like. It is a story of all the ways capitalism, racism, and misogyny inflict violence on the

On Be Holding

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Ross Gay’s book-length poem suggests that within the horror show of objectified Black pain and the not-finished history of stolen Black bodies, the answer is a community that holds each other with care and beholds in Black lives not just suffering but life, dignity, complexity—and joy.