The following is a list in response to a request for suggestions of “an essay, accessible to undergrads, defining the literary essay (not academic or comp/rhetoric).” Thanks to Dinty W. Moore and so many others who took part in this Facebook thread. If you have other suggestions, please leave a note, and I’ll add it to this list. (Of course, we were pretty excited to see suggestions from our pages, too!) Where possible I include a link to the piece.
Atwan, Robert. “Notes Towards the Definition of an Essay.”
Didion, Joan. “On Keeping a Notebook.”
Jessica Handler’s “Favorite Essay to Teach” about assigning Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook” might be useful. Find it here.
Hampl, Patricia Hampl. “The Dark Art of Description.” (Indirectly defines the literary essay.)
–. “Memory and Imagination.”
Lott, Brett Lott. “Toward a Definition.”
Sanders, Scott Russell. “The Singular First Person.”
Stuckey-French, Ned. “Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing.” (Lots of suggestions to use this for undergrads and grad students. Some report greater success using this with higher-level undergrads & grad students.)
We’d love to see more essays that define the essay. Consider submitting one to Assay!