Critical Essays Archive

Remaking Home: Transformative Motherhood in Lisa Ko’s The Leavers

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In Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, a relationship between mother and son becomes a catalyst for analyzing domestic boundaries. At it’s heart, it’s a story about motherhood and personal responsibility.

Mugabe’s Shadow in Recent Zimbabwean Fiction

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Robert Mugabe’s resignation last month was the most significant development in Zimbabwean politics in a generation. One way of assessing the shadow of Mugabe’s brutal hold over Zimbabwe’s history is assessing the shadow he casts over Zimbabwe’s post-independence fiction. This is significant.

Deck the Halls–Merrily but Warily

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In literature, scenes of decoration are charged with dramatic potential. In leaving their marks on spaces in this exaggerated way, characters show themselves to us.

The Silence of the War in The Story of a Brief Marriage

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War is strangely quiet in Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasm’s debut novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage.The titular brevity refers to the novel’s running time, which takes place over the course of a single day, but the story and its scope are anything but perfunctory.

The Beasts of Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids

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“To them, we were complete aliens.” So begins the first attempt by the unnamed protagonist of Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids to define himself and his fellow reformatory boys in wartime Japan. His last attempt is this: “I was only a child, tired, insanely angry, tearful,

The Unbearable Rancidity of French Letters

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The first woman to be admitted into the French Academy was Marguerite Yourcenar, in 1980. Nowadays, as we’re nearing the Academy’s 400th anniversary, the proportion of women remains dismally low, and the members are overwhelmingly white.

Jail Bait

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The adult-man-plus-teenage-girl plot is a common enough version of the coming-of-age narrative, and I’ve recently revisited two novels with it, both written by women: Sue Miller’s Lost in the Forest and Elizabeth Strout’s Amy and Isabelle.

Please Come Flying

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“Please come flying,” Elizabeth Bishop pleads with Marianne Moore, in her poem "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore" (1955), “above the accidents, above the malignant movies, / the taxicabs and injustices at large.” This will—passed between two poets and friends—to alight from the predictable rhythms of crimes made regular, enmediated,

The Poetics of Bewilderment

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Perhaps it’s paradoxical to want to define bewilderment, much less bewilderment as a poetics, given that the word generally refers to a state of confusion, an unmooring from the resolute signifiers that compose our comfortable, if not tidal and illusory, understanding of reality.

Prose Like A River: The Rhythm of Landscape in Angela Palm’s Riverine

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When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I loved to picnic with family on the bank of Cove Creek and listen, while we smacked our lips from cherry cobbler, to the creek gulp itself. Hollows between rocks sloshed pell-mell down the current’s throat. Whirlpools gargled a