The Politicization of Literary Analysis: A Conversation Between an Aspiring Academic and Professor Stanley Fish

By Jesse Ferraioli

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What is the purpose of literary education, and is it being fulfilled? I have been taught to connect the blackness of Othello to the racial issues in current times, to find applicable examples for Emerson’s Self Reliance in my life, and to see The Crucible as a direct comparison to the Women’s March. My name is Jesse, and I am a junior in high school.

I have questions about the state of literary analysis and the portrayal of literature in educational institutions in an era when politics and education seamlessly (and haphazardly) mix, a time when traditional authors succumb to the vicissitudes of 21st-century opinion, and colleges make headlines for protesting literature classes almost as frequently or more so than they do for achieving substantive advancements in knowledge.

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A Few More Suns

By Aricka Gannon

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In my room, it is dark. The only light shines through the barred window across my bed. Not the moon, but a lamppost illuminating a wire fence.

My eyes are closed when they open the door. They are voices with hands that hold me still. I open my eyes and the room is light again, and it’s time for breakfast.

#

I stare at the walls. The walls stare back. There is music playing in the room, or maybe it’s playing in my head. There is music playing, and it fills me with the ocean and the sun, and the way mother brushes my hair in the morning before school. Everything dances if I look long enough.

There are doors that lock only from the outside, and there are people wearing big grey suits who swing their arms like pendulums, keeping time with the clocks on the walls that hiss like stray cats Keeping track of when we are fed, and when we should be shot.…

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Locked In

By Kathleen Hempfling

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I watch my mother

___________________Struggle to put on a sweater

I call the right side of her body

___________________“Tin-Man without oil”

She is always half-smiling

___________________One eye three-quarters shut

I say she keeps it closed to see into the future

___________________“Mama, do you need help?”

Her twisted tongue cannot utter

___________________“No”

“Mama, can I stay out past curfew?”

___________________“One at a time”

“Can I have twenty dollars?”

___________________One at a time”

That one syllable word is misplaced

___________________Somewhere deep within her mind

“NO!”
___________________I will help her put on her sweater

But she is hot to the touch

___________________A boiling pot of water

Whose cover will not let steam escape

___________________Her words

A prisoner, who was not proven guilty

___________________Her mind

A prison cell brimming with letters from a past self

___________________(though that may be ironic, Mama can’t write anymore)

Her thoughts

___________________Rumblings from within

A landslide of words

___________________Stuck in the mud that is her tongue

Where, “one at a time” means everything

– Kathleen Hempfling

Author’s Note: This piece is inspired by people with aphasia.…

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New York After Rain

By Haisi Hu

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– Haisi Hu

Author’s Note: Inspired by Max Ernst’s painting, New York After Rain explores the moment before death—the character’s longing, fear, and numbness. His life seems strikingly alien in flashback, and the resulting pain awakens his love for the world. Its music was composed by Summer Lin.…

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Field Notes, Reykjavik

By Courtney Watson

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“You are here at your own risk.”

Clearly, I thought. The Strokker Geysir, a giant plume of steaming water that erupts from the tundra every few minutes is an impressive sight, if you’re into that sort of thing, or the boiling streams that tourists hover their fingers over, unable to resist. Personally, I preferred the excellent, deeply Icelandic warning sign that stands demurely in the background. It tells you everything you need to know about this country. After the initial warning, the sign persists:

“Remember, the water is 80-90C, it will burn badly.”

And then: “The nearest hospital is 62 km away.”

It’s an excellent sign, and well worth the trip to Bláskógabyggð—wherever that is.

I had big plans for my trip to Iceland. I would come back and regale my audience with tales of glaciers and waterfalls and elves and geothermal pools and jaw-dropping vistas that have been beheld by Vikings and Kardashians alike. I would venture North of the Wall—or, at least to the location where Game of Thrones filmed it—and I would come back with something profound to say. My desire was to see something that no one’s seen before, but, like the two million other travelers who visit Iceland every year, I settled for a location that merely felt foreign and remote to me.

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