Critical Essays Archive

Textual Difficulty as a Feminist Gesture: On Books by Julia Story, Laurie Sheck, & Sarah Vap

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In his writings on the experience of cultural otherness, Georges Bataille once observed that the marginalized body exists at the periphery of a community, as it cannot be safely contained within or held outside it. Within the context of Bataille’s work, otherness is defined as a “separation,” a visible

Vampirism and Unlikable Female Characters in Alissa Nutting’s “Daniel”

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When it comes to women in traditional domestic fiction, likeability hinges on selflessness. While men in these types of stories are allowed agency over their comings and goings in a household, women are expected to continually give of themselves: bodily, spiritually, and emotionally.

Reimagining Immigration in a World of Portals

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I would argue that there is on one hand literature that allows readers to escape reality, and on the other hand literature that forces readers to see their reality more clearly. Mohsin Hamid has accomplished the latter in his imaginative novel published last year, Exit West, and it is

Flora and the Passage of Time

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From Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, the temporality and fragility of flowers provide extensive ground for cultivating figurative meanings.

The Other America

As Claudia Rankine’s new play The White Card premieres at Boston’s Paramount Theatre, Ploughshares is proud to publish Catina Bacote’s “The Other America,” which investigates police brutality and the failure of community policing in New Haven, Connecticut, discussing Rankine’s Citizen in relation to the author’s experiences.

On Being Keepers: Heidi Julavits and Sarah Manguso’s Diaries

Diaries offer writers, particularly women who historically have not had a public voice, space to reflect on and process their lives as they happen, as well as space to record the daily routines that compose a life.

Poetic Counterpoints: Emmanuelle Guattari’s I, Little Asylum

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In I, Little Asylum, Emmanuelle Guattari reflects on her childhood at La Borde, an experimental psychiatric clinic founded in 1951 in the Loire Valley, France. Are the textures of this novel cum memoir particular to its setting? Can we detect in the book’s rhythm and style anything that directly

Learning to Love the Long Poem

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I’ve been wired since girlhood, by factors ranging from my Catholic upbringing to low self-esteem, to shrink, to make myself smaller, to avoid bringing attention to myself. Perhaps my comfort with small poems has underpinnings I should interrogate.

Lines from Limbo

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When I began to make a concerted effort to study Irish in college, I could not help but feel at times that the process was less one of starting from zero than of anamnesis, the slow recollection of a dormant inborn knowledge.

Nightmares by the Border in The Line Becomes a River

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In the desert, by the border, Francisco Cantú dreams of wolves. They are strange, menacing figures whose appearances portend a message he can’t quite figure out. Are they stalking him, the way he and the rest of the Border Patrol trail Mexican migrants through the Sonoran desert? Are they