I'm writing here to contextualize some of the talking that's going to be happening on this blogspace over the next few months. This semester I am teaching a course--a graduate craft seminar on essaying--at the University of Arizona. This course is being taught alongside a similar course that John D'Agata is teaching at the University of Iowa this same semester. The texts for this course are the nominees for the Essay Prize--listed on the linked website. We are reading these texts (or ten of them, anyhow), one per week, as a way of talking about what the essay is, but more importantly what it does. Writers at Arizona and Iowa will be blogging back-and-forth or maybe just alongside each other in this space (and anyone reading this is more than welcome to join the conversation), partly in evaluation of the essay-nominees (for the classes' job is to come up with critical language and criteria by which we might judge the essays we read, and to select the finalists, and then, in a glorious public flourish in Iowa City and Tucson, to present on the three finalists and to choose the winner).
Partly I hope we'll be talking to each other, and to ourselves, and to the unknown quantity of you which is italicized not just for emphasis but because of its amorphous quality--we'll be talking about the essay, and probably about genre, and about writing acts and reading acts and performing and the ways in which we are always as writers (or rather, as authors, as public figures, like it or not), performing on the page or on the webpage or in the air performing. Starting next week we will be looking at a video nominee:
and writing/talking/thinking about it, for these three things are in many ways the same. See you back here soon.