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Erin Ashley Mink Garvey Dr.

Bokser WRD 515: Reflection - FINAL 9 March 2011

Essaying for T/truth(s) Before this class, I equated essays with non-fiction short stories, largely because of an English class I had, True Stories, as part of my undergraduate curriculum. Essays were exclusively the domain of people like David Sedaris or the audio works of people like Ira Glass, of This American Life, and anything that fell short of those standards were simply not essays, in the traditional sense of the word. Academic writing didnt fit into my tight essay category, prior to this class, because more often than not, my experiences with academic writing aligned that genre with something more argumentative, something more expository, something that aimed to teach or tell or convince readers of something, and essays, as I understood them, never really sought to accomplish any of these aims. Wow, was I wrong. This class has demolished my immature conception of essay and, in the process, has taught me that theres much more that falls under the purview of essay than what I initially thought. One need only open to any of the essay selections from our Joyce Carol Oates textbook to see that essays take many different forms, sounds, and functions, and thats okay; in fact, thats part of the beauty and allure and history of the genre: its versatility. Wrapping my head around this concept took some time, but as I wrote three very different essays for this class, and got to read my peers essays, which were also written very differently than my own (and about vastly different topics), I began to better appreciate the essay for what it is and what it can accomplish. Knowing what I do now, then, I predict that essaying will become a much more entrenched, regular part of my writing, of my academic routine, and of my long-term personal and professional pursuits. In

other words, I anticipate that I will be able to essay much more than I previously thought I would. To this extent, since I have long considered myself a seeker of truth and reality and wisdom, it seems fitting that I can open myself up to the essays potential use as a vehicle, or avenue, for truth-seeking. Ive learned, through my own writing as well as through reading professionally-written essays and those of my peers and the essays on the essay that we have read as a class, that research plays an integral role in the essay format, even if it doesnt necessarily manifest like the academic papers I have become accustomed to over the years. In fact, I might even argue that research-laden essays are better situated to do all the things that many academic papers seek to accomplish--that is, to persuade, to argue, to convince, to tell a story--because people are generally more drawn to dynamic stories--the typical prose style of many essays--than they are to, say, static statistical facts and figures. Not only will most people retain information better when they can hear it in story form, but Id also surmise that they are better able to comprehend all the informatic nuances, as well--thus underlying the huge role that essays can play in ones personal or professional pursuits. My peers comments throughout class about effective legal and case brief writing becoming more essay-like and less legal-y speaks to the potential that essaying can have in ones professional pursuits. In my own essaying for this class, I tried to integrate research elements into each of my writings, which was sometimes challenging--depending on the essays overall content--but also, I felt, a wildly worthwhile pursuit. In my essays objective and goal statements, I remarked that I wanted my readers to either entertain some of their own ideas related to my topic (nutrition, for example), that I wanted to educate them about a particular topic of which they might have limited or no experience (being a pregnant marathon runner, for instance), or that I wanted them to further internalize some of my own ruminations and reflect on what they would do if they were in my

shoes (like thinking about what theyd ask their God, if given the chance). My goals and objectives very clearly, I think, showed that I always wanted my readers to leave my essays actively thinking about something specific, and in each of my essays, I tried to ensure that my writings helped catalyze my readers interpretations by offering food for thought or easilyaccessible research tidbits that would, ideally, stay with them long after they finished reading my essay. Of course, depending on the topic, I imagine that not all essays will readily avail themselves to being particularly laden with research or informational factoids, but I estimate that more often than not, essayists, me included, will be able to educate their readers in at least some capacity, in at least some way. Making my essays informative, as well as entertaining and pleasurable to read, was tricky, to be sure, but I think this triumvirate gave my essays a good balance and a good feel or sound. Perfecting this balance is something that I will definitely continue to work toward throughout my essaying pursuits. Perhaps most importantly, this course has taught me that essaying does not begin and end with a True Stories undergraduate class I had years ago, like I initially thought. Instead, essaying can, and ought to, become a critical, vibrant part of my writing repertoire, even if its not in the guise of writing non-fiction, 1,000-word short-stories, as was the case for this class. I have found writing, generally, and essaying, specifically, to be largely a process of self-discovery and a way to realize (the) T/truth(s), and it is in this discovery process that research--whether that be something topical or something more self-reflective--becomes especially important. Consequently, as I head into my final paper assignment, I imagine that most of my meta-discursive consideration of the essay, as a genre form, will focus on the intersections between essaying, research, truth, and knowledge; in fact, if theres something that has become particularly clear to me about essays, and essaying, over the past ten weeks, its that these aforementioned entities--essays/essaying,

research, truth, and knowledge--are complicatedly intertwined. One cannot exist without the others, and its because of this that the essay holds the power--and potential--that it does.