Critical Essays Archive

Should Creative Writers Adopt the Same Objectivity Expected of Journalists and Historians?

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In this particular moment, journalists have come under fire for their presentation or concoctions of the “truth” with a capital T. They’re expected to write as objectively as possible, but writers, especially those who write historical fiction, have been known to bend facts in service of story and are

The Classism of Dental Work in Erin McGraw’s Short Story “Teeth”

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There are many ways in which teeth can also set people apart. In the short story “Teeth” from the January/February issue of Kenyon Review Online, Erin McGraw explores classism and the power of wealth through the symbol of teeth.

Monstrous Masculinity: Frankenstein at Two Hundred

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When I first read Frankenstein, I knew that Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the blazing eighteenth-century feminist, so I was expecting a text reflecting that parentage. But her women characters were . . . well, dead. Her book was all about men.

Out with T.S. Eliot, and In with Cathy Park Hong: Poetry Criticism in the 21st Century

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The debate about whether Rupi Kaur’s poetry (and by extension, the whole genre dubbed “instapoetry”) is good or bad has apparently been revived. Whether that debate is actually useful in the terms it has set out for itself remains to be seen. Most often, it seems, when the poet

Toxic Friends and the Limits of Intimacy in Lauren Groff’s “Blythe”

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By providing characterizations that transcend the limits of traditional intimacy Groff creates a spectrum of dysfunction. Without boundaries, love becomes poisonous. Its removal is painful.

Time and Narrative Structure in Gina Berriault’s “The Infinite Passion of Expectation”

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The first time I read Gina Berriault’s story “The Infinite Passion of Expectation,” I experienced it as an inundation. The plot is strange but simple: a young waitress goes on frequent walks with an eccentric, aging psychologist, who eventually asks her to marry him—she’s unsure. The psychologist lives an

Cultural Legibility in America’s Dark Chapter

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What does it mean to be culturally legible? And what does cultural legibility mean with regard to writing about or from within one’s own culture?

Imagine Wanting Only This and the Subjectivity of Memoir

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Beginning with her childhood in Wisconsin and threading through her years in Chicago, Iowa, Kentucky, and numerous cities abroad, Kristen Radtke’s 2017 graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This chronicles her enduring obsession with ruins and the significance people find in them. Instigated by the premature death of her uncle,

Effects of the Edge

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In Aldo Leopold’s Game Management, published in 1933, he pointed out the overlapping zones between biomes and coined the term "edge effect.” All my life I had lived in those two ecosystems: that of the family I was adopted into, and that of my family of origin.

The Book Review in Review

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The ethics of reviewing poetry have recently reemerged as a hot-button issue in the literary community. Many writers have discussed the efficacy and aims of the “negative” review—how and if it impacts poetry and its readership in general.