What Makes an Essay Personal?

See The New Quarterly editor Kim Jernigan’s smart and articulate take on this, here.

“First, what a personal essay is not: it’s not journalism. It can be about anything (religion, politics, natural history, art, music, literature, science, food, travel, play, you name it, and the tone can be equally disparate), but it is not written on assignment. It comes instead from the writer’s own fund of interests and obsessions, questions to be raised or answered, observations, fantasies, regrets, uncertainties, delight. It evolves from a desire to know or to understand, to make connections. It is often triggered by some sort of experience in the world. It will sometimes lead to research, always to reflection. Above all, it is engaged.”

Note that there’s still time to enter TNQ’s Edna Staebler Contest for the personal essay. Details here.

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