Critical Insights: Literature in Times of Crisis Reviews

"A number of books have come out recently on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority being nonfiction analyses. How, one wonders, will the pandemic be reflected in literary works? This volume in the Critical Insights series addresses the question by looking at past crises resulting in social change, from plagues to war, from Homer to Cormac McCarthy. Defining “crises” variously and broadly, this collection of informed, scholarly essays is divided into three major sections: an introduction (written, interview-style, with scholar Rebecca Totaro on themes of plague literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and similarities to the world created by COVID-19 response) and two critical essay sections, comprising 11 essays in all. The first essay section treats ancient and Renaissance literature and themes, and the second addresses more-modern literature, film, and theater. Each essay gives a historical perspective, an overview of relevant secondary writings, an analysis of the work(s) under consideration, and (if applicable) a comparative analysis of two authors or works. Essays end with notes and works cited, and some are extended by black-and-white reproductions. The volume concludes with a list of additional work (books examining both literature and the impact of crisis); a bibliography that broadens the focus to related topics; notes on the editor and contributors; and comprehensive indexes of persons, characters, works, time periods, places, topics, and writers. As contributor Joyce Kelly notes, “We recognize crisis as potentially damaging, [but] it can also bring necessary change.” An excellent addition for college and university collections with a focus on literary criticism." - Booklist