Critical Essays Archive

“A Wilderness of Being”: Maternity in the Apocalypse

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Future Home of the Living God has been hailed as the heir to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, mostly because it talks about women forced to carry out pregnancies and dystopian political repression. Those two ideas together, however, are nothing new.

Loss of Meaning

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One very early morning, during an especially harrowing walk through icy winds and freezing puddles on the road from Auschwitz to a work site, prisoner Viktor Frankl lost himself in thoughts of his wife.

Alexandra Kleeman and the Poetics of Weather

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There’s much more to fictional weatherscapes than the tonal work that lies on the surface. Weather presents a fundamental aspect of narrative that, by definition, lies outside of the realm of agency.

Elena Ferrante & the Condition of a Woman’s Body

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In corporeal and metaphysical terms, Ferrante’s girls and women are made porous and penetrable, pervious and vulnerable, in ways that raise questions regarding the contemporary status of a woman’s body, and the modes of resistance we might fashion in changing its position.

Living in Multiple Worlds: Immigration in Lucky Boy and The House of Broken Angels

When you immigrate, you bring an entire world along with you, a fifth limb impossible to detach, though internal and external forces demand its removal. Immigrants enter into a state of constant negotiation, deliberating what stays and what goes within their sociopolitical space.

Stories of Displacement

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The stories in a new anthology edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen speak not only of estrangements from languages, loved ones, and countries of origin, but also of the pain of being in a new place that is not always accepting.

The Poet’s Manifesto: Three Ars Poeticas

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If there is an equivalent of the artist’s statement in poetry, it’s the ars poetica. Latin for “the art of poetry,” the ars poetica shows up as early as Horace, in 19 BC, and most poets since, it seems, have written at least one.

Measuring the Unknown in Jesse Ball’s Census

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The nature of the census changes continually—it is at points a mechanism of state surveillance, a quest for self-knowledge, an act of community, a measure of goodness, an exchange, a gift.

Zadie Smith’s ‘The Lazy River’ and Social Media

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Throughout "The Lazy River" Smith uses the second person and first person plural to create a community on the page, not unlike the ones we flock to online. She establishes from the beginning that we, as readers, will be a part of the narrative and complicit in the action that ensues.

A History of National Poetry Month

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Since the inception of National Poetry Month in 1996, people around the world have spent every April celebrating poetry.