by Merve Emre
The essay form…bears some responsibility for the fact that bad essays tell stories about people instead of elucidating the matter at hand.
The personal essay is a genre that is difficult to define but easy to denounce. The offending element is rarely the essay as a form, but its content, “the personal,” “a permanent temptation for a form whose suspiciousness of false profundity does not protect it from turning into slick superficiality,” writes Adorno. A list of counterparts to the personal essay might include more admirable imaginary genres such as the structural essay, the communal essay, the public essay, the critical essay, and the impersonal essay. Or, as Adorno insinuates, the good essay, which prioritizes “elucidating the matter at hand” instead of telling “stories about people,” as “bad essays” do. [Read more…]