Critical Essays Archive

Sculpting Flesh From Text in My Body is a Book of Rules

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How to control the body is a constant theme in Washuta’s work.

Scansion and Contemporary Poetry

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How might the practice of scansion as a tool toward understanding and crafting poetry become more equitable and expansive so as to allow for poets’ and readers’ different fundamental orientations toward language?

Thomas Hardy’s Rule-Breaking Heroines

Hardy humanizes his heroines' ambitions, the intensity of their feelings, their fancies and passions. In both Bathsheba Everdene and Tess Durbeyfield, Hardy writes intelligent women who work hard and write their own rulebooks.

When Scientists Study Novels

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The point is to understand that what constitutes “literary” versus “genre” fiction—an age-old topic of study and debate within literary circles—is fundamental, not ancillary, to scientific findings on the effects of reading novels.

Pictures of You: Understanding Life Through Memoirs

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The need to figure out why we are who we are is what drew me to Elissa Altman’s memoir Treyf, a bittersweet and touching memoir of the author’s growing up years in 1970s New York City and Queens.

Expecting the Fish of Anguish: For the Love of the Non Sequitur

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Perhaps in times like these, when the work of making sense of the world around us gets harder, we need poetry that points toward that difficulty—and that makes that work worthwhile.

Resistance at Bryce Dessner and Richard Reed Parry’s Black Mountain Songs

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There’s a similar simplicity to Black Mountain Songs. “The spirit of learning through doing and emphasis on self-exploration for both teachers and students,” was one of the qualities of Black Mountain College Dessner hoped to convey with the performance.

The Object in Writing and Art

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I learned how to write by going to art school and becoming a visual artist. Color, light, perspective, scale—I use these same visual tools in my writing. But of all the practices I use as an artist, the practice of using objects has helped my writing most.

So Your Character Wants to Be a Historian

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There’s no easy way to actually quantify this, but it feels like more and more characters I see in books are historians of some kind – regardless of their status, amateur or professional, these are characters who do sleuthing work about the past, consciously or not.

Girls Looking in the Mirror

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As a teenager, I suffered long bouts of gazing into the mirror. Time fell away and I went into a kind of deliberate stupor. I thought if I stared long enough, I might forget who I was looking at, and—for a moment—see myself as others saw me.