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literary criticism

Rita Dove, Dancing

So how come there aren't more dancing poets? The title of Rita Dove's new volume promises a little more than the contents deliver, but one should be grateful for what lies within. Her earlier Grace Notes (1989) showed Dove's interest in those delicacies of thought, feeling, and expression that decoration adds to artistic enterprises. American Smooth continues its author's commitment to integrating the ornamental, the nominally "superfluous," into the weight of serious subject matter. As a kind of epigraph, she quotes two definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (of "American" and "smooth"), before producing her own titular definition: "American Smooth" is "a form of ballroom dancing derived from the traditional Standard dances (e.g., Waltz, Fox Trot, Tango), in which the partners are free to release each other from the closed embrace and dance without any physical contact, thus permitting improvisation and individual expression." Dove is taking (understandable) liberties here, but that's what a creative artist does. As anyone knows who has been put through his or her paces in ballroom instruction, there's only minimal room for improvisation in the waltz and fox-trot, but as with sonnet writing, strict limits sometimes make for innovative, liberating gestures. Dove's take on dancing has consequences for, and parallels in, her poetry.


Daughters of A People and Culture

Caroline Rody's revisionary literary criticism offers new and persuasive ways to understand the "renaissance" of African-American women writers and of Caribbean women writers during the past three decades. What has allowed U.S. writers Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Phyllis Alesia Perry, Gloria Naylor, Paule Marshall, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Lucille Clifton—along with filmmaker Julie Dash—their enormous productivity? What allowed Caribbean writers Merle Hodge, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Lorna Goodison, Jamaica Kincaid, Jean Rhys, Michelle Cliff, Maryse Condé to emerge at the same time with similar power? And, more to Rody's point, what connects and what distinguishes their preoccupations and concerns? A brilliant close reader, Rody answers by locating metaphoric and structural paradigms across these texts that suggest historical answers. The title provides the first set of clues.


Arnold “at Full Stretch”

This penultimate volume of the Virginia edition of Matthew Arnold's letters covers the years 1879—1884.1879 was his 57th year and the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems, his debut as a poet. Since that first volume Arnold had followed two vocations as poet and literary and social commentator and as leading figure in the British government's reforms of state education.

Orwell, Freud, and 1984

Although Freud started out as a heretic in terms of established psychology and medical practice, he gained an almost hypnotic effect on his followers and succeeded in establishing an orthodoxy which exerts its power even today, almost 40 years after his death.