The Art of the Essay

What distinguishes an essay from a memoir or other work of nonfiction? What formal methods do essayists have at their disposal? Whether you’re a seasoned essayist or simply trying to get a basic handle on the craft, this class will give you a thorough introduction to the genre through guided readings of some of its most loved incarnations. Weekly readings will include James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Joan Didion, Audre Lorde, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, and many others.




Meets: Saturday, March 4, 2017 – Saturday, April 8, 2017 (6 sessions), 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Hugo House
Fees: General: $295.00; members of Hugo House: $265.50
Register and learn more about need-based scholarships


Week 1 – Truth in a Post-Factual Age
On Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral Sense,” Friedrich Nietzsche
The Decay of Lying—An Observation,” Oscar Wilde
On Not Knowing Greek,” Virginia Woolf
optional: “How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next,” William Davies
Week 2 – Global Tribalism, Social Injustice
We Refugees,” Hannah Arendt
The Anger of the Damned,” Orhan Pamuk
A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift
“Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Judith Butler (in Precarious Life)
optional: Butler interview on Black Lives Matter
Week 3 – Black Lives Speaking
Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind,” James Baldwin
Eulogy for Nigger,” David Bradley
The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” Audre Lorde
Exchange with a racist Twitter troll on Martin Luther King Day, January 19, 2015, Ijeoma Oluo
Week 4 – Manifestos: The Rhetoric of Proclamation
The Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
First Manifesto for Surrealism,” Andre Breton
The Privileges,” Stendhal
A Cyborg Manifesto,” Donna Haraway
The SCUM Manifesto,” Valerie Solanas
Week 5 – Meditations
An Account of My Hut,” Kamo no Chōmei
Walking,” Henry David Thoreau
Holy Water,” Joan Didion
Junkspace,” Rem Koolhaas
Week 6 – Food for Thought
A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig,” Charles Lamb
“How to Boil Water,” MFK Fisher (from How to Cook a Wolf)
“Steak and Chips,” Roland Barthes (from Mythologies)
With or Without a Lake of Melted Cheese,” Bethany Jean Clement