Topic outline

  • General

    The Art of the Essay
    Spring 2009
    Gloria Biamonte

    James Baldwin, American EssayistVirginia Woolf describes the essay as a form that "must lap us about and draw its curtain across the world." But what, she questions, "can the essayist use in these short length of prose to sting us awake and fix us in a trance which is not sleep but rather an intensification of life - a basking, with every faculty alert, in the sun of pleasure?" Her answer is a simple one: "He must know - that is the first essential - how to write." From David Quamman's "The Face of the Spider" to Scott Russell Sanders' "Looking at Women" to Wallace Stegner's "The Town Dump" to Annie Dillard's "Living Like Weasels" to George Saunders' "The Braindead Megaphone," we will explore how contemporary essayists - in personal essays, nature writing, literary journalism, and science writing - look closely at everyday objects, practices and experiences. We will analyze what makes these essayists effective, entertaining, and enlightening. And, of course, we will be writing about all of this in several formats: in-class exercises and shorter assignments leading up to two 4-6 page papers and one 8-10 page research paper. Peer response workshops, writing conferences, and in-class work on style, revision, and editing will alternate with our class discussion of the essays.

    • Topic 1

      Basic Information
      • Topic 2

        Assignments