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The Midwest Quarterly – Summer 2008

The Midwest Quarterly (“a journal of contemporary thought”) is an unpretentious academic review that also includes a selection of poetry. This issue’s articles are scholarly, but quite readable, not overly burdened with jargon or theoretical constructs that try one’s patience, as so much overly formal academic writing tends to do.

The Midwest Quarterly (“a journal of contemporary thought”) is an unpretentious academic review that also includes a selection of poetry. This issue’s articles are scholarly, but quite readable, not overly burdened with jargon or theoretical constructs that try one’s patience, as so much overly formal academic writing tends to do.

Subject matter in the Summer 2008 issue includes a history of accounts that describe the alleged conflicts between science and religion; an examination of women characters in conflict in the writing of Toni Morrison; an examination of Twain’s narrative process in his well-known story, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County;” a consideration of landscape in the work of Black Mountain poet, Edward Dorn; and a reading of the meaning of failure in the work of Richard Hugo. This last piece is particularly pleasing, an essay by Michael Dobberstein of Purdue University Calumet which examines Hugo’s “honesty” and poetry of “despair.” A fan of Hugo’s, I appreciated Dobberstein’s reading, as well as his selection of examples. Dobberstein appears to know Hugo’s work quite well, and his remarks do what literary criticism should, but often does not, illuminate an aspect of the writer’s work often misjudged, misunderstood, or simply ignored.

The poetry in this issue is a portfolio of work by William Sheldon of Kansas. A dozen poems where speaker and environment merge in a small, but vivid moment of precision and clarity (“noses clutching wood smoke, / like incense, / to our sacred hearts.”). Four book reviews of very different kinds of books (poetry, a writing manual, and social critique) round out the issue.
[www.pittstate.edu/engl/mwq/MQindex.html]

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