of the Personal Essay
|1. Conversational in
tone: It tends to use more casual language and almost takes the reader
into the author's confidence.
The author makes an attempt, however unsuccessful, at psychological
honesty. The personal essay lends itself to vulnerability and the removal of
Contractions and Expansions of the Self." The personal essayist tends
to cycle between self-deflation, which paradoxically leads to an internal stress on the
author's complex personality. As such, the author is subject to egotism, especially
in letting her voice dominate the subject matter.
Confrontational: The essayist wants to defy the majority opinion.
Perhaps he is irreverent or ironic.
|5. "The Idler
Figure." Authors tend to picture themselves as retired from the world
or on the edges of the literary market.
|6. A Fascination
with Perception and Detail: The author tends to spend lovingly time and
care on descriptions of matters often overlooked.
|7. The Melancholy of
Unrealized Dreams: The author reaches a realization that one must make due
with who one is.
free association in form; experimental in its attempts. And the subject tends to be
tentative in its conclusions.
|9. Carefully Focused
Prose: The author knows how to "narrow in on an emotional
target" and how to flesh out her ideas with literary language, such as metaphor,
simile, imagery, and allusion.
|10. A Display of
Learning: It often to give a sense of the author's education, culture, or
intelligence. The quotation has often been a form of this kind of display,
especially pre-20th century.
adapted from Phillip
Lopate's introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay. NY Doubleday, 1995.