Five Literary Theories and Their Limitations

This is going to be one of my last posts on literary theory, I promise. At least for a bit. Well, maybe until I finish reading David Herman’s essay “Narrative Theory after the Second Cognitive Revolution” (fascinating stuff about the mind itself as a product, as well as a producer, of discourse). We’ll see. ButContinue reading “Five Literary Theories and Their Limitations”

The First Steps of Exposure Therapy

The men who attacked me were trying to make me small. They wanted to keep me quiet. I was a reminder to them that strength knows no gender, and neither does intelligence. Regardless of their race, orientation, age, and class, they all shared a contempt for women. They resented any woman they perceived as “withholding”Continue reading “The First Steps of Exposure Therapy”

Spring Semester Scandal at My MFA

CONTENT WARNING Now that I’ve finished my literary theory class, it’s on to the next course in my Accessible MFA: a fiction seminar. Full disclosure, I copied a lot of this from novelist Lily Hoang’s syllabus, which she generously shared on HTML Giant. Of course I chose my own textbooks, set up my own schedule,Continue reading “Spring Semester Scandal at My MFA”

What’s the Point of Literary Theory Anyway?

Literary theory is a trip. I just spent a year studying this for the first semester of my Accessible MFA. I watched Professor Paul Fry’s 26 introductory lectures at Yale. I created a JSTOR account (for free) so that I could read most of the assigned readings. And I bought The Norton Anthology of TheoryContinue reading “What’s the Point of Literary Theory Anyway?”

Strout’s Disturbing Portrayal of a Child Sex Predator

CONTENT WARNING Literature has a long history of sexualizing children, especially girls. Often, it centers the adult gaze, exploring pedophilia from different angles. “Death in Venice” and Lolita are two of the most famous examples, but it’s difficult to play literature jeopardy without an explosion of examples where old men fancy young women or even children, whetherContinue reading “Strout’s Disturbing Portrayal of a Child Sex Predator”

Candice Carty-Williams Wows with QUEENIE

A brilliant interrogation of the “chick lit” genre, Queenie starts off slow, with the usual plot points: career woman struggles with career and the quest for the perfect life and the perfect man. But about 100 pages in, Candace Carty-Williams begins to unravel this aggressively normative genre. And by the novel’s midpoint, Queenie is beginning to question her entireContinue reading “Candice Carty-Williams Wows with QUEENIE”

How LITTLE WOMEN Saved Me

On my tenth Christmas, I peeled back the wrapping paper to find a book about the size of a dictionary. The cover was printed with the image of a living room. Around a piano, five white women stood singing in the light of a hurricane lamp. Their dresses could easily be mistaken for curtains. TheContinue reading “How LITTLE WOMEN Saved Me”

The Fetishization of Girlhood

I first realized that men look at girls as sexual objects on the day of my kindergarten graduation. Our teacher had set the theme as a Hawaiian luau (yes, cultural appropriation was all the rage in the 1980s). The girls had made skirts of green paper streamers to wear over our swimsuits as well asContinue reading “The Fetishization of Girlhood”

Misunderstanding Feminism

We need some nuance here. We need to talk about the distinction between systemic, socialized misogyny and individuals who simply annoy us. That white man in his sixties who constantly talks at me—is he assuming that he’s entitled to my attention because I look female? Or is he a socially anxious extrovert who can’t shutContinue reading “Misunderstanding Feminism”

Stalked by the Mormon Church

I had not been to church in over three years. I had moved to another city. I had not informed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of my new address. I had, in fact, not had any contact with the church or its representatives for over three years. And yet, one cloudy dayContinue reading “Stalked by the Mormon Church”