Understanding the Essay

Overview

This is a book on how to read the essay, one that demonstrates how reading is inextricably tied to the art of writing. It aims to treat the essay with the close attention that has been given to other literary genres, and in doing so it suggests the beauty and depth of the form as a whole. At once personal appreciations and acute critical assessments, the pieces collected here broaden our perspective on the essay as a major literary art, tracing its history from William Hazlitt ...
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Overview

This is a book on how to read the essay, one that demonstrates how reading is inextricably tied to the art of writing. It aims to treat the essay with the close attention that has been given to other literary genres, and in doing so it suggests the beauty and depth of the form as a whole. At once personal appreciations and acute critical assessments, the pieces collected here broaden our perspective on the essay as a major literary art, tracing its history from William Hazlitt to Joan Didion.
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Editorial Reviews

Dinty W. Moore
"Understanding the Essay is a magnificently intelligent examination of the essay's diverse pleasures, with fresh, revealing looks at writers from Montaigne to David Foster Wallace. Bravo to Patricia Foster and Jeff Porter for providing this important, insightful, readable resource. Teachers, students, and essayists will be bending back pages and marking the margins for years to come."
Sallie Tisdale
"Understanding the Essay is a warm and intelligent addition to our understanding of a form seemingly built for confusion. Foster and Porter know their subject: the subtle demands and inventions of the form; the tension between a narrator and her unsettled sibling, the author; the importance of integrity to both the known and the inventive voice. The brief biographies create a nuanced context in which to read the work; the analytic essays offer insight into work we think we know—or have yet to explore—in such a way that we can read as though for the first time."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554810208
  • Publisher: Broadview Press
  • Publication date: 7/25/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 851,967
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Foster is the author of All the Lost Girls (2000) and Just beneath My Skin (2004) and the forthcoming novel Girl from Soldier Creek (2012). She has received a PEN/Jerard Fund Award for nonfiction, a Florida Arts Council Award, a Dean's Scholar Award, and the Fred Bonnie Award for a first novel. She is Professor of English at the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the MFA Program in Nonfiction. Jeff Porter is the author of Oppenheimer Is Watching Me (2007). His essays have appeared in Antioch Review, Isotope, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, Wilson Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, Blackbird, and other journals. He is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, where he teaches in the MFA Program in Nonfiction.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction: "A History and Poetics of the Essay," Jeff Porter
Introduction to David Foster Wallace
Reading "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," Jeff Porter
Introduction to Anne Carson
Reading "On Trout," Eula Biss
Introduction to Jamaica Kincaid
Reading A Small Place, Donald Morrill
Introduction to Scott Russell Sanders
Reading "Under the Influence," James McKean
Introduction to Joy Williams
Reading "The Case Against Babies," Sara Levine
Introduction to Joan Didion
Reading "Georgia O'Keeffe," Patricia Foster
Introduction to John McPhee
Reading Encounters with the Archdruid, Adam Hochschild
Introduction to Cynthia Ozick
Reading "A Drugstore in Winter," Sven Birkerts
Introduction to James Baldwin
Reading "Notes of a Native Son," Honor Moore
Introduction to Seymour Krim
Reading "For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business," Vivian Gornick
Introduciton to Ralph Ellison
Reading "The Little Man in Chehaw Station," Gayle Pemberton
Introduction to George Orwell
Reading "A Hanging," Carl H. Klaus
Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald
Reading "The Crack-Up," Patricia Hampl
Introduction to Virginia Woolf
Reading "Street Haunting," Marilyn Abildskov
Introduction to Mark Twain
Reading "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," Robin Hemley
Introduction to William Hazlitt
Reading "On the Pleasure of Hating," Phillip Lopate
Introduction to Charles Lamb
Reading "New Year's Eve," David Lazar
Introduction to Jonathan Swift
Reading "A Modest Proposal," Xu Xi
Introduction to Michel de Montaigne
Reading "On Some Verses of Virgil," David Hamilton
Key Terms for the Essay
Contributors
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