The Western Literary Canon, or the Curious Case of the Male Ego

Over the last two years, I’ve read Beowulf, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, More’s Utopia, Aristotle’s Poetics, and sections from The Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve made a project of the canon because, at 33, I felt that if I want to be the kind of writer I aspire to be, I need to know what I’m workingContinue reading “The Western Literary Canon, or the Curious Case of the Male Ego”

The Hazards–and Rewards–of Literature for the Feminist

Nothing like old love to remind you of who you have been, and who you have become. So I just picked up my favorite novel for yet another re-reading. At 17, when Mr. Hansen assigned All the King’s Men for my Honors English class, it was love at first sight. The first-person narrator, Jack Burden, ranks among AmericanContinue reading “The Hazards–and Rewards–of Literature for the Feminist”

Beyond Tragedy

In her final lecture on Shakespeare’s tragedies, Clare Kinney posits that the Bard, in his late plays, “writes beyond tragedy.” An aging Shakespeare takes the material of his earlier plays–usurped thrones, suspected infidelity, a banished daughter–and reworks it. Classic tragedy is all about choice and the irrevocable consequences of those choices. Time unfurls in onlyContinue reading “Beyond Tragedy”

The Middle of Nowhere

“But what happens if you leave?” I was 21 years old and having a hypothetical discussion with my anthropology professor. He knew I was Mormon. Knew I had a complex relationship to my faith. And though we were talking about community in a general sense, he knew I was thinking of leaving it. He shrugged.Continue reading “The Middle of Nowhere”

Identity and Performance

I just finished reading Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, and few characters in all the literature I’ve read so fascinate me–and yet remain so remote. Cleopatra’s “infinite variety” is difficult to imagine. I can think of no woman I have ever known who resembles her. One moment playful, the next violent and wrathful, queenly,Continue reading “Identity and Performance”

Making Peace with Imperfection

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.” Thus begins Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, and I think of it every autumn–but most of all in the weeks that moveContinue reading “Making Peace with Imperfection”

Shakespeare Goes Manga

This is for real, people. So there I was, in the public library, and BAM! Like Batman’s fist in a villain’s face, I found Shakespeare-as-graphic-novel. My first reaction was repulsion: NOOOO! But then–hmm. Could this be a good thing for the Bard? I cracked it open, to see how they handled the iambic pentameter, theContinue reading “Shakespeare Goes Manga”

Take a Moment to Reflect, Macbeth

We all get ahead of ourselves sometimes. And Macbeth most of all, the renowned literary critic Harold Bloom argues in his essay on Shakespeare’s play. It’s his imagination that’s at fault, Bloom writes, turning him into “an overanxious actor always missing his cues.” As soon as he imagines something, he’s already there–unable to exist inContinue reading “Take a Moment to Reflect, Macbeth”