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A Book Critic's Task: From Gogol’s Bullshit Jobs to Elena Ferrante’s Class Fictions
From her writing, in the midst of the social justice uprising after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, about the 19th century Russian author Leo Tolstoy's opposition to state violence to her pondering whether Sally Rooney--the Irish novelist hailed as the first great millennial author--is trying to figure out "how should a millennial Marxist novel be," Jennifer Wilson has quickly become, in the New York Times formulation, "one of the smartest freelance literary critics working today." Wilson's intrepid ability to navigate between literary works, old and new, and the questions at the forefront of contemporary audiences' concerns, jolts the reader into an appreciation of books with a kind of reinvigorated intellectual joy. For example, in positing that Nikolai Gogol's celebrated 1830s-1840s tales of lowly Saint Petersburg clerks are the writer's phantasmagoric attempts to conjure up what the late anthropologist David Graeber has called, in 2018, "bullshit jobs," Wilson provocatively articulates one of the reasons why a literary classic might continue to endure to this day.

In this conversation with Sasha Senderovich, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Jennifer Wilson will speak about the task of the book critic in today's world.


Jennifer Wilson is a contributing essayist for The New York Times Book Review and a contributing writer for The Nation. Her work has also appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Book Forum, The New York Times, and other publications. She currently directs the Arts and Culture Reporting Program at the City University of New York's Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Wilson holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Princeton University.

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made by November to 17 to the Simpson Center, scevents@uw.edu, 206-685-5260.

Dec 2, 2021 04:30 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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