Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Topic: What Is an Essay?

10-second review: Students free write or brainstorm to generate ideas, but what is the format into which they place those ideas? What is an essay?

Title: “Sophisticated Essay: Billie Holiday and the Generation of Form and Idea.” S Zaluda. College Composition and Communication (December 1991), 470-476. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: When students finish an essay, the teacher has them answer a question: “What is an Essay?” Their answers are thoughtful and thought-provoking. They try to establish a relationship between the form of writing and their personalities.

Comment: In a sense the students are trying to establish their personas.

In the matter of form, there are two basic types of essays: the Addisonian with a pre-planned beginning, middle and end, and the format of Montaigne, in which his ideas are recorded as thoughts come to his mind. An integral part of those formats is the nature of the writer.

I think this question, “What is an essay?” after completing an assignment might help students understand better the nature of writing. Purpose for writing. Audience for writing. And, with each assignment, the students’ understanding of writing’s nature, purpose and audience should deepen. I haven’t thought this through, but it’s an idea I wish I had used.

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