Aristotle, Creative Writing, Discourse, Essais, Essay, Experimental Essay, Finnegan's Wake, Friedrich Nietzsche, James Joyce, Mark Twain Annual, Michel de Montaigne, Oxford Dictionary, Playboy, Prime Numbers, The New Yorker, Ulysses, Webster's Dictionary
Every time I begin a post for this blog I always find myself being bitten in the back of the neck by a loathsome yet annoyingly poignant pixie. This pixie, apart from keeping sentiment as far away from these writings as humanly possible asks me an important question as I struggle to spit out at least one or two sentences: Have you done anything new or important to the medium of the essay?
This I feel is an unfair question, principally because it’s so damn important.
Anyone who has had to suffer through a high school literature course (speaking as a graduate student in English I’m being honest, few teachers possess the skill to make the class seem really useful or enjoyable. Not that’s their fault, I mean, it’s high school after all) has had to construct an essay. I say construct because in all honesty, few of us actually wrote those things. Few of us really had an ability to analyze, even those few lucky fuckers who were making “A’s.” This will not be a terribly long essay, in fact it will be more akin to a regular blog post.
Observe exhibit A, the usual blend of internet honesty: I am only writing this because it’s been weeks and people have stopped viewing the page as frequently as they used to.
Observe Exhibit B: poor USE of gramer, yu c?
Very well, I have been CLEVER, but have I really said anything? It’s one thing to simply say you are going to do something new with a particular form, it is an entirely different matter to actually accomplish it. James Joyce and Friedrich Nietzsche both PROPHESIZED with their PENS—to quote a great man who now has to do car commercials for money—that they would create works that would leave scholars puzzled for years. Anyone who’s read one page of Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake understands this.
- What can be done to honestly stimulate growth and creativity?
- As was noted before, the essay is perceived by many to simply be something academic, it’s reserved for PhD’s and literature scholars.
- Why should I care about essays? I never read them.
The conflict with this FALSE opinion is that it reveals a great ignorance as to what constitutes an essay. As I said before in a previous essay (https://jsjammersmith.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/an-elephant-never-forgets/) the form has been attributed to Michele de Montaigne in his book Essais, which were general musings about life, politics, romance, culture, economics, pretty much whatever was moving outside his window that morning. Now while Mike may have made something NEW, I have been informed that the idea that he created the form is INCORRECT. Before I chase a rabbit let’s stay focused. Why do I need essays?
–An essay is the expression of an idea in prose form. Why don’t we also go to Websters and see what they say?
I like to get as many examples as possible so let’s try Oxford too.
Quoting definitions is a practice I have condemned, but as long as we’re defining words to start a conversation rather than dictation, we should be fine. Look at these definitions though and my point about the essay’s usefulness to our society becomes more significant. Rather than say a thought out effort consisting of: an introductory paragraph including a thesis, three or more body paragraphs building upon the thesis statement, and finally a conclusion, it says instead “an attempt.” The essay is an experiment, an opportunity to place words together and determine whether those words assume a meaning once they have been compiled and hopefully, but not always, EDITED for CLARITY.
What then could an essay be?
- A blog entry
- An academic journal article
- A memo
- A facebook post
- A tweet
- The words I have a kitty name Steve on a t-shirt
- A textual analysis
- An engineering report
- A texted response to “where u at?”
- Aristotle’s Rhetoric
- Anything published in TIME, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Tyler Rose Edition, Mechanic weekly, Playboy, The Mark Twain Annual, virtually anything published in the online database Jstor
- Writing a note down to remember your grocery list
The LIST could continue but I believe I’ve gone far enough. Now looking at this list it strikes me that almost anything could be an essay. Does this then denigrate the relevance of the form to our lives. Will essays continue in this interpretation to be something valuable or meaningful to our society.
This question is irrelevant as it is idiotic. I’m not interested in expressing what will happen to the ESSAY, I am worried about if I am doing anything new or different with the form!
Experimentation then becomes the ticket. The CONFLICT becomes, does the author then simply experiment in hopes that the assorted mess of his or her creativity will amount to any real statement or message about the form of an essay, that they will in their time and effort create something new or different that OTHERS will assume possesses significance. My experience, and simultaneously my counter argument is that
while form and experimentation is good
for creating new ideas that forever alter our
PERCEPTIONS, making a real message is what matters,
A study of literature shows that, nothing is really NEW,
Or original. Everything, EVERYTHING, has been said or spoken before, the only thing that matters,
Is how the MESSAGE, Is Received.
The end goal of this blog has been to understand and appreciate literature, which I have come to understand as the discourse of human ideas and emotions. If the essay is the essence of our CONVERSATIONS, then shouldn’t they be great. More importantly, they should challenge us to continue to understand the conversation and see that while another’s experiment may be DIFFERENT, as long as we put forth an effort to TRY and understand the other side, there is still a point to making a conversation.
Unless you’re in line for stamps, in which case try this: http://www.stamps.com/welcome/