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”

Deconstruction: A Literary Theory

Well, look, it’s Christmas Eve, and I haven’t got a lot for you today. So how about a short recap of deconstruction? Pour yourself a mug of eggnog, drop in an ounce of Maker’s Mark, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bartender recommended from yours truly (it was another life). If you like mind games (the goodContinue reading “Deconstruction: A Literary Theory”

Fiction Seminar Syllabus

Half the fun of doing an Accessible MFA in Creative Writing is planning it. It’s been a blast to put together this latest course, and I think it fits well with the rest of my program. So today I’m sharing my plan for this semester. Of course, with chronic migraines, my semesters are all outContinue reading “Fiction Seminar Syllabus”

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?”

To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race”

Since the 1930s Formalism has positioned literary art as independent of author, era, and even possibly meaning. It promises that if readers would just focus on structure, symbols, and tensions within the text itself, all will be clear. Although this approach still holds sway in literature and creative writing classes, Critical Race Theory has challengedContinue reading “To the Guy in My MFA Class* Who Believes Art “Has Nothing to Do with Race””

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”

New Books

In my ongoing quest to read literary fiction that is not all about straight white men having affairs, wanting to have affairs, or trying to get out of affairs (oh, what woe to be man!), I used my 39th birthday as an excuse to add to my reading pile. And here’s what’s coming up! IContinue reading “New Books”

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”

Why I Think Alharthi Will Win a Nobel

Jokha Alharthi won the International Man Booker Prize, along with her translator Marilyn Booth, in 2019. The novel that skyrocketed Alharthi to such international acclaim is only her second: Celestial Bodies. It’s also the first by an Omani woman to be translated into English. Only 80 pages in, I am in awe. Many ambitious writersContinue reading “Why I Think Alharthi Will Win a Nobel”