Critical Essays Archive

Carmen Machado and the Corporeal Text

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Carmen Machado weaves together textuality, orality, and corporeality in her brilliant short story collection Her Body and Other Parties.

Main Street

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Main Street holds an unusual place in my bookish heart: it is one of those novels that I love, but rarely recommend. It is dull. But listen—its dullness is part of its charm.

Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish, and the Editor as Enabler

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As the story goes, most of what American readers love about Raymond Carver is not the work of Carver at all.

How Do We Decide What to Read?

There are too many beloved books and not enough prizes, and somehow they get lost underneath all the news about the really important books that I should be reading.

Splintered Selves and Sexual Abuse in Dorothy Nelson’s In Night’s City

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Set in 1970s Ireland, Dorothy Nelson’s In Night’s City is an obscure, deceptively slim book. Unofficial predecessor to Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, the novel charts Sara’s attempts to assimilate sexual abuse, suffering, and shame.

A Small-Town Coming Out in an Online World

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The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves starts, like many books set in a small town, with a homecoming.

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.