Tayt Harlin

  • syllabi March 25, 2013

    The Golden Age of the English Poet-Critic

    Today we have academics and professional critics as well as novelists and poets who moonlight as critics. But prior to the establishment of literary study as an academic field in the twentieth century, nearly all criticism in English was written by creative writers, often poets. Their criticism is characterized by autobiographical arguments that make little use of outside opinion, and are stylized enough to be called poetic. Their criticism is literature. Of course, poet-critics are still with us (see: James Fenton, Charles Simic), but no longer are they as highly regarded as they were from

  • First-Person Plural

    In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf ponders Coleridge’s claim that a “great mind must be androgynous”: “He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.” The life and work of Clarice Lispector are marked by a yearning for such undividedness, a grasping after universals. “Facts and particulars annoy me,” she once remarked, and in the novel Água viva (1973), she wrote, “There is much I cannot tell you. I am not going to be autobiographical. I want to be ‘bio.’” As Benjamin

  • Report on Myself

    At the end of Grégoire Bouillier’s new memoir, the author recalls passionately kissing his mother at the age of seventeen and expecting the sky to quite literally fall on his head. Seconds afterward, he laments, “Everything has remained in place. The world is the same, and I’m its prisoner. My intervention didn’t accomplish anything. Didn’t cause any upheaval. It’s always the same oppressive emptiness.” Report on Myself chronicles Bouillier’s attempts to transcend the quotidian and live an outsize life—one that approaches mythical proportions.

    The memoirist’s birth is the result of a threesome

  • Voice Over by Céline Curiol

    Céline Curiol’s English-language debut, Voice Over, is a thoroughly French affair. Like much of Samuel Beckett’s work (the epigraph to this book is, quite appropriately, taken from Molloy), it chronicles, in relentless detail, an individual’s battle with a host of ontological neuroses that threaten to overwhelm her. And like Beckett’s worldview, Curiol’s is unremittingly bleak.

    The anonymous “she” of the novel is a young woman who works as an announcer at the Gare du Nord in Paris. Given to fits of misanthropic rage, agoraphobia, and exhibitionism—she is, in other words, a knot of contradictory

  • Jenny Erpenbeck is fixated on the terrors of childhood. The title piece of her 1999 debut collection, The Old Child & Other Stories, is the tale of a nameless orphan found on the street and brought to a boarding school, where she lives in paralyzing fear of her classmates. “Around me, everything is awhirl,” she says. “No one looks at me, I don’t know what I have done.” The school’s rigid social hierarchy is more than she can bear: She falls violently ill and, in a twist straight out of a gothic fable, ages decades in a matter of weeks.

    The protagonist of Erpenbeck’s novella, The Book of Words