The Art of the Essay

Here is Zadie Smith on essays as an answer to “novel nausea.”

I’m not sure I agree with her about the demise of the novel, but I do agree that the essay is an interesting and challenging form. I love the notion that originally it did not have the structure we associate with it today, and that it more represented the meaning of “essay” – to try out, to experiment.

I’ve loved teaching personal essays in my Creative Nonfiction class this term, and feel that I’d like to put more life into my English 150 (freshman comp). I think we kill any spark students might have by forcing them to write academic essays – such an artificial and specialized form. And does anyone read them outside of our field? Nor do scholars really seem to have much responsibility to make them interesting and readable.

I feel that blogging could mean a rebirth of the personal essay. Perhaps.


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