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The Art of the Personal Essay

Semester and Year FA 2011
Course Number WRTNG-UG1305
Section 001
Instructor Sharon Friedman
Days Wed
Time 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement


The personal essay is a flexible genre that often incorporates rumination, memoir, narrative, portrait, anecdote, diatribe, scholarship, fantasy and moral philosophy. The title of Montaigne’s Essais (“attempts"), published in 1580, suggests the tentative and exploratory nature of this form as well as its freedom. The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy—the sharing of the writer’s observations and reflections with a reader, establishing a dialogue on subjects that range from the mundane to autobiographical and political meditations to reflections on abstract concepts and moral dilemmas. Style, shape, and intellectual depth lend the personal essay its drama, charm, and its ability to provoke thought. In this course, we will read and write personal essays that explore “persona,” “tone,” and “voice” in dialogue with concepts such as “the self,” “personal identity,” and “sincerity.” Readings may include essays by Seneca, Michel de Montaigne, Charles Lamb, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Wole Soyinka, Natalia Ginsburg, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Gloria Anzaldua.

Course Type

Advanced Writing Courses (WRTNG-UG)

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