Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra shares with Troilus and Cressida the obsessive and self-consuming rage of the tragic figure as he confronts and attempts to define “reality.” But, more extravagantly than Troilus and Cressida, this reality is layered with masquerade; forms that are often as lyric as brutal shift and change and baffle expectation. The constant refinement of brute reality into lyric illusion is the work not simply of Antony, Shakespeare’s hero, but the lifelong work of Shakespeare himself.
Troilus and Cressida, that most vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare’s plays, strikes the modern reader as a contemporary document—its investigation of numerous infidelities, its criticism of tragic pretensions, above all, its implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential are themes of the twentieth century.
By Joyce Carol Oates Originally published in Critical Inquiry, Winter 1983. Reprinted in The Profane Art Once upon a time, it seems, an English clergyman born Brunty or Branty, self-baptized the more […]
By Joyce Carol Oates Originally published on Salon.com, September 29, 1997 Jane Eyre abounds in mysteries and surprises. The most immediate, for Charlotte Brontë’s contemporaries, was the identity of the author of […]
By Joyce Carol Oates Originally published as a preface to Jane Eyre (Bantam Classic, 1988); it appeared in an earlier version under the title “Romance and Anti-Romance: From Brontë’s Jane Eyre to Rhys’s Wide Sargasso […]
Though I was writing and publishing before I came to live in Detroit in 1962, it was only in this city that I conceived of a personal body of literature in which the unique and the emblematic might be conjoined; and the private, the domestic, the idiosyncratic yoked to larger social and political concerns (in such Detroit-set novels as them and Do With Me What You Will, and such historically focused novels as Angel of Light, Wonderland, and You Must Remember This).
By Joyce Carol Oates Originally Published in American Gothic Tales Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright. […]
By Joyce Carol Oates Originally published as an Afterword to Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque What is the “grotesque”—and what is “horror”—in art? And why do these seemingly repellent states of […]
I first read this unclassifiable prose piece— hardly a “tale” in any conventional sense, still less a “story”—when I was an undergraduate at Syracuse University, and I have been haunted by its images ever since. Herman Melville, our first native feminist?—can it be so?
It is my conviction that all human beings “create” personality. Some do so passively, helplessly, and are in a sense created by others, whom they come to fear or hate; others create their personalities half-consciously, and are therefore half-pleased with their creations, though they suspect something is missing; a few human beings, gifted with the ability to “see” themselves as “other,” and not overly intoxicated with the selfness of the self, actually devise works of art that are autobiographical statements of a hypothetical, reality-testing nature, which they submit with varying degrees of confidence to the judgment of their culture.
Mike Tyson, a boy warrior, has become legendary, in a sense, before there is a legend to define him. And never has the collective will of a crowd—the very nearly palpable wish of a crowd—been more powerfully expressed than it is tonight in Las Vegas.