Review of Violaine Schwartz’s Papers

For Full Stop I reviewed Violaine Schwartz’s fascinating portrait of the French asylum system Papers (trans. Christine Gutman):

Displacement is a global phenomenon that demands to be understood in an expansive framework: Transnational crises do not have national solutions. The translation of Papers contributes to this project by shedding light on the human experience of the French asylum system. But perhaps thinking in such macro terms simply reproduces the logics of bureaucracy that Papers reveals. What the book offers instead is testimony to the importance of fostering hospitality, cultivating welcome, and creating spaces of refuge. Yet this, too, is insufficient. “It’s a drop in the ocean,” the speaker hosting Issa in their spare room says. “And there’s something unfair and arbitrary about it too.”

You can read more here.

Review of Dorthe Nors’ ‘A Line in the World’

For The Millions, I reviewed Danish writer Dorthe Nors’ fascinating ‘A Line the World’:

What begins with Nors’s desire to escape the city becomes a meditative portrait of identity—personal, regional, national—in its making. Growing up the child of a carpenter and hairdresser in the post-industrial town of Herning, Nors followed the path of ambitious Danes from the provinces by heading east, first to study Swedish literature at the University of Aarhus before continuing on to join the Copenhagen literati. But, as A Line in the World describes, Nors felt confined by city living and longed for the region that shaped her. Lying on her apartment floor one day, Nors realizes she must change her life: “I want a storm surge, I thought. I want a north-west wind, fierce and hard. I want trees so battered and beaten they’re crawling over the ground.” But most of all, a “horizon is what I want, and I want solitude.” And so she returns West.

Read more here.

Review of Terrell, Scripting the Nation

I wrote a review of Katherine H. Terrell’s Scripting the Nation (Ohio State University Press, 2021), now published in Studies in the Age of Chaucer:

The value of this book for Chaucerians and scholars of late medieval literature lies in the way it conjoins the two major traditions of Scottish literature: monumental Latin histories and vernacular court poetry. In so doing, the book models a synthetic form of literary history that combines historiography and poetry, alive to the literary techniques, rhetoric, and style of both kinds of writing. While Terrell’s book rests on the specific connections between Scottish historic and poetic writing, it exemplifies a methodology that would benefit any scholar interested in questions of nation, literary tradition, and how late medieval writers sought to inter­ vene in the political crises of their day. While Scotland is a notable absence within Chaucer’s geographic imagination (mentioned only once by name, in The Man of Law’s Tale), it was a key site for contesting conceptions of national identity, crafting visions of national historiography, and promot­ ing the role of vernacular poetry in the life of the polity that resonate across the late Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period.

You can access it here.