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Calling for a radical reexamination of the traditional foundation of composition instruction--the thesis/support form, this book argues that the essay, with its informality, conversational tone, meditative mood, and integration of form and content, is better suited to developmental, epistemological, ideological, and feminist rhetorical pespectives. The book first traces the origins of the essay in the 16th century. It then examines 20th-century theories of the form to illustrate what constitutes the fundamental qualities of the essay--epistemological skepticism, anti-scholasticism, and the use of an "anti-Ciceronian chrono-logic" organization ("we can only have one thought in our heads at a time, one thought leads to another, and time flows in only one direction"). This leads to writing that is well developed and well ordered, consistent, and methodical. The book shapes a "rehabilitative theory" of the essay by applying the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin to advance a conception of the essay as a centrifugal, novelistic, dialogic, and carnivalesque form. The book then examines the practice of some contemporary essayists--Aldous Huxley, Joan Didion, Charles Simic, Alice Walker, Scott Russell Sanders, Gretel Ehrlich, and Joseph Epstein. Extensive, detailed accounts of assignments and classroom activities on the essay form that have been used effectively with students are offered. Several student essays are presented in their entirety and analyzed in the book. An afterword and appendixes on sources and works cited conclude the book. (NKA)

Descriptors: Authors, Class Activities, Essays, Higher Education, Instructional Innovation, Literary Genres, Student Development, Student Writing Models, Theory Practice Relationship, Writing Assignments, Writing Instruction

National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096 (Stock No. 15845-3050: $14.95 members, $19.95 nonmembers).

Autor: Heilker, Paul


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