Featured Essay Description

 Prompt: Write a brief (one sentence or one sentence fragment) description of the post you read or are reading for the class

 

“Stuck in Your Head: Storytelling Through Music” is a personal and slightly informational essay on the benefits of music and how it can shape your life, memories, and interactions with those around you through not only composing but also listening and sharing.

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Commentary: Essay Sequence

I am actually really satisfied with my essay sequence! My essay sequence turned out much differently than I imagined, but I actually think this was for the best. My series took on a life of its own and I explored topics I never gave much thought to before. Though I always enjoyed movies I never really thought about them a whole lot after I left the theatre, and if I did it was a specific storyline or character I would contemplate. I also never thought about social media as a storytelling platform until this project. It is funny, now I am seeing storytelling everywhere! Having written the entirety of my essay sequence I feel as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

With that being said I still have some work to do! I would like to clean up my essays and work on their flow over the last few weeks of class. Now that I have had a little bit of space from my essays, especially my first two, I hope I have gained perspective so I can find areas that need reworking. I am also contemplating adding in more personal connections to the first two pieces specifically. I avoided this at first because I have a tendency to get carried away and write too much about the personal aspect and not enough of on the topic. However, I fell like the personal aspects of the story are what makes them the strongest because I am able to convey my passion and the importance in my own life.

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Comedy, Tragedy, and Everything In-Between: Storytelling Through Theatre

My first play ever I didn’t get cast as the lead and I was shocked. Looking back, I see how conceded that was but when I saw that I was cast as an Oompa Loompa in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” I thought that was going to be the end of my acting career. I barely had any lines, but I did get to dance a lot, so I wasn’t too unhappy. Plus, by the end of the first rehearsal I already had so many friends. This version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was the most low-budget version of children’s theatre you could imagine. Our mom’s hand sewed our costumes, we helped to paint the set, our light design was either “lights on” or “lights off.”  But that is one of the greatest parts of theatre: it is limitless in how the stories are portrayed.

Theatre only requires the audience to use their imagination. A plain stage with a wooden table can be transformed into a restaurant, doctor’s office, a classroom, a kitchen, or maybe even a spaceship. This is why low budget or academic theatre still has the ability to be magnificent. Now, I am not saying our production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was even close to magnificent but we had a hell of a lot of fun and our parents had a lot of fun watching us, no matter how simple our set was. Theatre isn’t about all the glamour of Hollywood effects. There is no CGI in the theatre. This makes the magic of theatre even more exciting to me because the magic is happening in front of your eyes. To me, theatre is an incredible opportunity to free your imagination and to let yourself be open as a viewer and experience the story unfolding on stage.

The same year I was cast as an Oompa Loompa I also visited New York City for the first time and I saw my first ever Broadway show, “Wicked.” Not only was I awed by the costumes, set, and big dance numbers, I was also amazed that I saw myself up on that stage. It was then that I learned theatre is just as incredible to watch as it is to perform. The lead character, Elphaba, was an outcast and an underdog, just like 10-year-old me (and probably 22-year-old me too) but she didn’t let other people’s opinions get in the way of the powerful woman she was becoming. Elphaba lived in the land of Oz where animals talked, an entire city was emerald, and magic was real. Every single person in that audience believed what was created up on that stage. If only for two hours that magic was real. Those writers, designers, musicians, and craftspeople created an entire world for playing: not just for the actors but for the audience too. In that space joy, sorrow, pain, and hope were experienced, as well as a lot of fun.

My parents bought me a “Wicked” t-shirt that day and I wore it every chance I could; which was not nearly as often as I wanted due to the fact that my school had a uniform. As months went on my love for “Wicked” faded, though it still does hold a special place in my heart, and I discovered other musicals that resonated with me for many other reasons. Through theatre I am able to watch the characters grow, develop, and learn. As a viewer I am also putting myself in the characters shoes; weeping with their pain, and cheering with their success. At its core, theatre is about the stories of the characters.

The stories and songs throughout these productions shaped the stories of my life, even though I did not realize it at the time:

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” came into my life when I just needed to laugh. I was in the seventh grade and it made me excited to grow up and work in an office one day. I connected with Smitty, the secretary without whom the office would fall apart. She was slightly frumpy, organized, and liked to meddle in other people’s love life.

Sara and I sang every song on the soundtrack a thousand times at our sleepovers

“Les Miserables” came into my life when I was hurt by my first real relationship and still grieving the pain of lost love. I was a freshman in high school and I became inspired to join my school’s competitive theatre troupe, despite my stage fright, because of the bravery shown by the characters I came to love.  I connected deeply with Éponine who was only ever seen as a best friend by the man she loved. She died for him and the revolution they fought for.

Emily and I had tears streaming down our face as we belted “On My Own” in her basement (at the request of her mother) so her family wouldn’t have to listen to us anymore.

“Hamilton” came into my life when I desperately needed a story to believe in. I was a freshman in college and I hated being at Keene State because I had no friends. The first ever rap/hip-hop musical about the founding father, Alexander Hamilton, inspired me to work harder every day for a dream worth fighting for. This show inspired me to make a change in my own life to make myself happy; I joined a sorority to come out of my shell and that year I made the best 21 friends a girl could ever hope for. I connected with Angelica Schuyler, the eldest sister who sacrificed her wishes for the good of her family and who kept her love for Alexander a secret because she knew her sister loved him too.

Molly, Kenzie, and I rapped every lyric of every song on our road trip to Philadelphia.

“Dear Evan Hansen” came at a time when I needed it most. This is the story about a boy with severe social anxiety who finds himself wrapped up in a giant lie that makes his life so much better, even though it was all based in fabrication. I was a junior in college and had just come back from a semester abroad. I felt alone and and inexplainable sadness with no root because I did not know I was experiencing “reverse culture shock.” I found myself in Evan Hansen with his big heart and inability to say no to people.

Laura, Katie, Kenon, and I blared the soundtrack every time we got in the car for months straight.

And then “Waitress” came into my life. Jenna’s story blended with my own. I got the chance to see the show this past summer. Jenna was an under appreciated waitress (like me) who was destined for greatness but stuck in a small town.

I had tears streaming down my face at the curtain call, but I was also internally screaming, begging, to know what happens to Jenna next. This woman who I saw so much of myself in is now disappearing in front of my eyes as I rejoin the real world and the house lights illuminate. I know Jenna is fiction, but lines are blurred between where her story stops and mine starts. As much as I have to know more, I never will. But at the same time, I will if I only imagine it. After a show ends it becomes yours and lives only in your memories. Live theatre can never be relieved or replayed except in your memories because it is live, and therefore different, every night. So, I took Jenna from “Waitress” with me as I walked out of the theatre and I continued her story in my mind, allowing her to be as happy as she was in the final group number for the rest of her life.

Though we call a production a play theatre is much more than just playing. Sure, on the surface it may look like actors are playing dress up and make believe but we are able to transform lives by just telling a story. Theatre changes lives through after school programs, giving people an outlet for expression, employing thousands of people in New York City alone, and giving people, like me, a home.

In the theatre I feel the most at home. I know I can get up on stage and perform a monologue, or sing a solo next to the pianist, or call cues from the booth, and feel happy, fulfilled, and successful. Theatre doesn’t have to be professional to be important. I admire community theatre most of all because it is people participating not to make a living but to make memories. They are creating theatre out of a desire, not a need to make money. Through this form of storytelling they are not only connecting with their audience but also with their fellow craftspeople by sharing and acting upon a similar passion.

Theatre creates, deconstructs, forces conversations, and influences change. This form of storytelling is one of the greatest gifts humans have to connect with one another while sharing opinions and influencing change through art.

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Stuck in Your Head: Storytelling Through Music

 

I am 8 years old. I am sitting in the middle seat of my mom’s brand new 2003 Volvo S80. On each side of me are my older sisters, Mariah and Morgan. My parents are in the front seats. Dad is driving of course. The printed directions from Map-Quest rest on my mom’s lap. She desperately tries to get the Garmin GPS to turn on. We are making the two hour trek to Maine to visit my Auntie. We do this once a year to celebrate all the holidays in one. This car ride is a century to my family. Maine might as well be the peak of Mount Everest. Every year the drive seems to just gets longer. It is a time before the popularity of iPhones, aux cords, and iPods even. I have my hot pink portable CD player on my lap. Morgan just smashed the headphones with her foot “by accident.” My face is hot with tears. Now my Britney Spears “In The Zone” CD will go unlistened to for the entire car ride.

The opening strum of Toby Keith’s country song “I Love This Bar” begins softly over the radio. My dad excitedly cranks the volume up. My Mom, Mariah, and I moan. Morgan cheers to my right. I dramatically plug my ears and groan for as long as my breath can hold. Mariah looks out the window with angst. Sighs come at every chorus. Morgan sings right in my ear. She is just inches from my face. She manages not to touch me. I can’t even tattle on her. My mom looks at my dad. She fights a smile. He sings along. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

As Toby Keith’s songs fades I hear the opening chords of “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” begin. My entire family erupts into bursts of lyrics and guitar imitations. Mom’s always loved Jimmy Buffett. Dad’s always loved Alan Jackman. Morgan, Mariah, and I just love screaming “OHHHH pour me something tall and strong – make it a hurricane before I go insane!” pretending we have any idea what those lyrics mean. For 3 and half minutes there is no fighting, no groaning, no care about taking the wrong turn. We all really love this song.

* * *

My family still sings together. But we don’t drive in the same car anymore. Portable CD players changed to iPhones. Listening to the roulette of the radio changed to playlists played through aux cords. And a car packed with family became a car filled with friends. But no matter what, when “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” plays in our kitchen when we are cooking for family Sunday dinner we always sing along. Even if for just a moment we are brought back to days at the beach, counting who got the most bug bites during our camping trip, bike rides to get ice cream, family barbecues, and far too many sunburns.

I’ve always loved music and have even grown to love long car rides because of all the songs you can listen to in one sitting. To me music is one of the most special creations in the entire world. Honestly, humans might have peaked with music. I have always been fascinated by music: the different genres, how different instruments work together, and how music can express things words never can. Music has the ability to bring us together.

My sister Mariah, is now 28, and has two children of her own to squeeze in the back seat. She still hates country music but funny enough, her husband loves it. They (lovingly) fight over the radio every time they get in the car (Mariah always wins). One of the best parts of music is that everyone has different preferences and opinions. You might hate a song whereas I love it; that is the beauty of music. No two people will ever feel the same about a song. We will always interrupt it differently and connect with different aspects. For some they may connect with a specific lyric, for you it may be a beat, and for me it may be a feeling I get when I listen to it. Music allows for human connection not just from creator to listener but also from listener to other listener. Sharing a song is sharing human connection. This gives a platform for discussion, connection, and sometimes, like my family, arguments or even celebration.

My sister Morgan is 24 now and she still loves country music, even more so now then when she was a kid. Johnny Cash is still her favorite because she thinks he is the greatest storyteller of all time (I fight her on that constantly – obviously I think it is John Lennon). Music is one of the most complex forms of storytelling because in a single song the listener can experience a piece of the composer’s soul. There is a song for every moment in life because music is inspired by life. For many musicians creating music is a form of expression and processing their experiences. Through different genres we are able to have preferences, style, and personal connections to music. A single song can bring you back to a specific memory, a specific moment in time, and a specific feeling. It can also make you think of the person who introduced you to that song, artist, or style. After decades of being married to my dad, my mom has finally converted to a country fan. My dad even surprised my mom with tickets to a Billy Currington concert this past weekend celebrate her birthday.

My best friend for over 17 years, Sara, is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter. Though she has never taken a single lesson she is the most talented person I know. She has a true gift for storytelling. Her songs can make a person empathize with the narrator, root for the speaker, and demand the downfall of the antagonist all while the listener is relating the topic to one’s self. I went to visit Sara last weekend at the Hart School of Music because she was the lead in her school musical (I know, she’s amazing). While chatting about the future and our dreams I couldn’t help but inquire why she writes music and has decided to dedicate her life to creating it. As a poet, I questioned her (mostly to tease her), “why not just write a poem or an essay?” To which she responded with an answer I am still thinking about.

“In real life, I never know the right thing to say. I can never find the right words. But in music, I find eloquence and meaning I get to carefully choose each word, sound, and beat in order to express my emotions. ”

When an artist is writing music they have control. They get to tell the story that may or may not be inspired by real events. They can change the ending or effect the outcome. Music can be fact or fiction, just like creative writing. By channeling real emotions and experiences it becomes genuine and authentic. Language and sound can be used to the musician’s advantage – just like a poet does. A single song can convey a range feelings by thousands of technique, tactics, and strategies.

Though there are more songs than moments in a day there are still songs we hold very dear to our hearts. The songs we listened to on repeat and adopted as our own. The songs that were playing when something huge happened. The songs that play now and make you smile with nostalgia.  

 

When I hear Total Praise I flashback to singing in the beautiful church on Via Faenza with the Lorenzo de’ Medici choir while I studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

When I hear “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran on the radio I still jump awake and see myself in Randall Hall wrapped in my coral, jersey sheets because it was my alarm song all of freshman year.

When I hear “Fall For You” by Secondhand Serenade I am brought back to my first school dance in the 6th grade, (awkwardly) slow dancing with my first ever boyfriend.

When I hear “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac I am transported to my childhood home at the round kitchen table, watching my mom sing in the kitchen as she makes me pancakes.

When I hear… When I hear… When I hear… I could go on for a lifetime because music has been a part of my life.

* * *

I am 16 years old. I have had my license for one whole week. I hop into my hand-me-down car, a now old and warn 2003 Volvo S80. I immediately roll down the windows. I drive off to pick my best friend Sara; as I pull out of the driveway I hear the opening chords to my favorite song. I crank up the radio and smile.


 

This is the Lorenzo de’ Medici choir singing”Lode Totale” – I was apart of this choir while I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Singing this song and even still listening to it now always gives me chills!

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Micro-Story: Storytelling Through Social Media

 Social media is a form of storytelling. Though it is not as long term as a play, movie, or other art form social media is the adjusted fast paced story that our fast paced society craves. Social media allows for instant connect 24/7. Through social media we can also connect with people we have never met before, possibly will never meet, and are from around the world. For example, one of my best friends is named Minjee and was a student from South Korea who went to school in the USA. We went to school together for 10 years before she moved back home to South Korea. Minjee and I are able to talk whenever we want through apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and stay connected through Facebook! I am able to Facetime her and talk with her face to face (screen to screen) and hear her voice. Though Minjee and I would much prefer talking and catching up in person we are still happy to have a way to talk to each other on a regular basis!

In social media we are able to tell stories with a broader audience than ever before for everyday people. A typical, average person can rise to fame but getting recognized on the internet. Ellen Degeneres is well known for finding talented individuals, inviting them on her show, and allowing their platform to grow even more. Celebrities ranging from singer Justin Bieber to comedian Bo Burnham can thank the internet for their fame. After having videos go viral they were able share content from their homes and be shared in homes around the world. Every person has an equal voice on the internet and they are able to share whatever story they want to. They can do so anonymously, under a pen name, or using their own name. Stories can range in style, voice, content, and reality.

We are even able to share full story arcs through just a seven second video called Vine. Some are strategically planned; whereas others are spontaneous and real…..

 

We are also able to tweet full experiences in just 140 characters on twitter, sometimes including pictures. Through tweets we can share emotions, experiences, and even mini-stories. We can see different perspectives from people we may not know very well, or even feel deeply for those we have never met before

My eldest sister Mariah has two daughters, Claire who is 2 and Juliet who is 10 months. I love them to death and it baffles me how quickly they are growing. I don’t get to see them as often as I would like because I am two hours away at school. However, my sister is constantly posting pictures of my nieces on Facebook or Snapchating me videos of the small everyday adventures they have. I love getting to stay updated even when I am too busy at school to come home and visit. On my birthday last month I woke up to this Snapchat of Claire; I guess you could call it her way of wishing me a happy birthday? This video still makes me laugh and this video meant just as much to me as a card or phone call would have.

 

 

 

Through social media we are able to share stories faster than ever before. The moment something happens we can immediately share it with the entire world via the internet. Though tweets, Instagrams, snapchats, and vines are short-term storytelling methods they are still valid forms of communication and connection. Things go viral quickly in this day and age and fads come and go – adjusting to that is important. Social media adapts to our fast paced society allowing for immediate, instant connection and storytelling.


 

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Lights, Camera, Connection: Storytelling Through Film

Ever since I was a little kid I loved the magic of the movies. I love the storylines, the costumes, the popcorn, and the ability to be transported into a different world for a few hours. The first movie I remember watching is the 1982 movie “Annie” – the rags-to-riches story of a spunky young orphan. My mom tells me now that I begged to watch Annie’s story unfold over and over again until I had every song, dance routine, and nearly every line completely memorized. Since I had two older sisters I got to watch a lot of movies with them when I was very young so I first saw “Annie” when I was about four.

My very favorite song from the film was “Let’s Go To the Movies” because I loved watching Annie have a makeover for her fancy night on the town. I loved the glitz and glamour which came from going to the movies in the 1930’s. I still love “Annie” nearly twenty years later and it is not surprising that this story really resonated with me as a child. Not only was the movie filled with singing and dancing, which became a huge part of my life starting around the year I turned five, but it also teaches lessons of being unashamed of who you are, staying strong in the face of adversary, and having hope and optimism no matter what. These morals which I learned from a film 18 years ago are still extremely important to me and I hold them very close to my heart.

Even now as an adult I still love movies. I recently saw the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, The Shape of Water. I was unsure about this film when I first purchased my ticket but it quickly won me over. By the end of the movie I was sitting completely alone in the theatre crying my eyes out at the profound beauty and sadness of the love story that developed over 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute woman named Elissa who falls in love with a mysterious creature that is being held captive by the United States government in 1962. Throughout the film there are motifs and themes of blind love, loneliness, isolation, class and gender inequality, and genuine person-to-person connection. If you haven’t seen the movie yet (which I highly recommend) check out the trailer below and I promise not to include any spoilers as you read on!

Throughout the film Elisa teaches the creature (he was never given a name and this is the only problem I had with the movie!!! But maybe this was supposed to be an allusion to Frankenstein’s creation…) how to speak sign language so the two are able to have a genuine connection with substance not just a physical attraction. To me, this movie was about genuine connection at its core between creatures, one human and one amphibious. Through different storytelling techniques such as naratoration, a strong antagonist, an underdog to cheer for, and dramatic conflict this film was able to capture an array of emotions and values. Elisa and the creature were able to form an inherent bond together by spending time in one’s presence and accepting one another as they are. They also share the bond of both living extremely isolated and lonely lives. The two find solace in their rare spiritual connection which to me was so metaphoric for storytelling within the film medium. Through film people of all different demographics can relate to a story of fundamental human experiences such as hope, love, loss, war, and so on. Through movies we can empathize with characters, root for important causes, use our imagination for creative problem solving, and have a lot of fun. Movies also allow us to connect with others by creating conversation starter and giving us a platform in which we can discuss our opinions and thoughts.

My favorite person to talk about movies with is my Grammie. Though we have widely different opinions and preferences it makes our conversation so much richer to understand. My Grammie and I have been watching movies together for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I slept over my Grammie’s house every weekend with my two sisters. Every Friday night we would go to Blockbuster and pick out a movie that all four of us wanted to watch – which wasn’t always easy. When I was about 6 years old one Friday night we couldn’t decide on a new movie so we decided to watch one we all loved and had seen many times before, the 1982 movie “ET the Extra-Terrestrial.” I have always been a highly emotional person and especially as a child I had a hard time containing my emotions which I felt so deeply. While watching the first scene of the movie I was crying hysterically because ET could not reach his spaceship before it took off with his family and friends to outer-space. He was stranded alone on earth completely isolated. Morgan had grown so angry at me for bawling my eyes out only 5 minutes into the movie that she screamed at me, “COURTNEY. If he didn’t miss his spaceship there would be NO MOVIE. SHUT UP.” I knew that ET would miss his spaceship because I had seen the movie before. I even knew that everything would be okay because I had even seen the ending, but my little 6 year old heart could not stand this heartbreak. All I could do was scream back to my sister, my throat raw from wailing, “I KNOW but I’m still sad and he’s all alone! ET wasn’t even the same species as me but I connected with him. I empathized with him and I wanted to take care of him just as the children in the movie did. I saw myself in that little alien. I too was an outcast often forgotten and feeling alone. From a young age I understood what magic film gives us to tell stories and allow for connection and growth. That year for my birthday my Grammie gave me an ET toy – a truly hideous, rubber, electric toy that moved and talked. He was not even plush and was honestly as hard as a rock but that did not stop me from cuddling with his rigged, rubbery body every single night.

I watch movies to experience new stories and meet characters which I find connections to: whether it is little orphan Annie who exudes sunshine despite her hard life, Elisa a woman who is able to see the good in someone that others think is evil, or even an alien like ET who is filled with curiosity. It is through film that a viewer is able to be immersed in a new universe of special effects and close up shots, making movies so realistic they bring us to tears, cause us to scream, and make our stomachs hurt from laughter. Movies allow the viewer to be completely transported to another realm of reality, where anything is possible and the fabulous is accepted. Through movies one can can connect with themes, ideas, hopes, and despairs of the characters – seeing yourself within them. Just as Elisa and the creature found connection, understanding, and an emotional co-laborer in The Shape of Water, movies are able to give the same platform to their audiences, allowing a screen for experimentation, honesty, and of course, storytelling.


 

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Virginia Woolf: An Essayist Worth Knowing

 


 

Photo taken from Amazon.com and this book is the version that I used in reference to this essay. (Clicking this photo will pull up a tab in which you can purchase the book yourself)

Last fall I had the greatest five months of my life studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I was able to travel, make friends from across the globe, observe up close some of the world’s greatest art, and oh yeah, take classes. While abroad I was lucky enough to take a class called “Women in Literature” where we studied in depth both female characters but also women writers. While abroad I was less excited for this class than my other four classes. But I mean, who can blame me when my other classes were Pairing Food and Wine (with lots of food AND wine tastings every class), Art History (where every class we went to a different museum, gallery, or church to see the works in person), and Florence in the Literary Imagination (where we took field trips to different locations in Florence which were popular for both authors to write about and for them to physically visit to write), and Italian (which in Italy was pretty helpful). My Women in Literature class never took field trips, it was not focused on Italian culture as my other classes were, and it certainly never included wine; however, it quickly became my favorite class that I took during my five months in Florence. My professor was the most intelligent, beautiful, and charming Italian woman who was a proud feminist and absolute genius in the literary field. Oh, also being a professor was also her part-time job. Her full time job was to travel around the world pitching movies to producers, in hopes of them becoming blockbuster hits. Every weekend she would travel to a different country for another pitch. Basically, she was the most incredible human in all of Italy and I got to sit in her classroom and absorb her knowledge every week for three hours.

It was this professor who introduced me to my now hero, Virginia Woolf. It was in this class where I learned about the innovation, bravery, and world changing actions of Virginia Woolf. In fact, one of the writers who we focused on the most was Virginia Woolf. We spent weeks on Woolf because her impact on the literary world was so huge, whereas other authors received only one class period. Woolf wrote novels, short stories, and essays; each carefully carved with intimacy, knowledge, and poise. Each forever changing the face of literature.

I think Virginia Woolf would have loved the way I came to find her writing and discover my passion for her words. I think she would appreciate the fact that her writing convinced a headstrong American girl living in Italy who only wanted to learn about the amazing Italian writers out there, found that the best writer she encountered that semester didn’t write a single time about the city this girl had become obsessed with. This is just as her writing convinced the people of the 20th century that she was a force to reckoned with, even though they didn’t want to admit it.

Virginia Woolf is highly considered to be one of the most important modernist writers in the 20th century and one of the most important figures in literature of all time. Not only was Virginia Woolf a strong feminist in a time full of adversary for women, she also had a love affair with Vita Sackville-West, which was considered highly taboo in the 20th century. Aside from all of this, one of the most important and monumental tasks Woolf accomplished was being credited with the creation of the stream of consciousness writing style. Woolf pushes the boundaries which had never been explored before by experimenting with narrative styles in the way she does with Stream of Consciousness style.

It is important to understand the life and upbringing of Virginia Woolf because it is where she draws her inspiration for her work. Woolf, describes in her critical essay, Modern Fiction, that modern writing and fiction needed to be personal. She believes strong writers need to start by “Attempt[ing] to come closer to life, and to preserve more sincerely and exactly what interests and moves them, even if to do so they must discard most of the conventions which are commonly observed by the novelist” (Woolf 161). Woolf encourages writers to write about things they know and things that interest them because strong fiction needs to be personal and relate to the author’s spirit. Important factors to know about Virginia Woolf include the fact that her parents were very progressive and successful, meaning she was raised in a manner in which she was supported for being both an independent woman and a writer; these paths were not yet mainstream in the late nineteenth century (Nicolson). This is a main contributor to comfort in exploring that which had never been experimented with.

Woolf also endured many tragedies throughout the early years of her life. Her half sister suffered from a severe mental handicap and when she was only six years old she was sexual abused by her half brother. When she was only thirteen her mother died and her half sister died just two years later. Her father passed away when Woolf was twenty-two years old and after another two years passed she lost her brother (Biography). When Woolf was still very young she began to suffer from mood swings and depression. It is likely that Woolf suffered from bipolar disorder, however, they did not have the means to diagnose nor medicate bipolar disorder until the 1950’s (Nicolson). Due to these many tragedies it is possible that this is one of the reasons she wrote about death and the tragic of missing life’s opportunities so often and with such passion. 

I love Virginia Woolf’s advice to write about what is interesting to a writer because to me that is going to be the work that is most genuine, intriguing, and filled with the most authentic curiosity. Of course I believe writers should challenge themselves with new topics, however, I truly think that writers need to be excited about their subject. There is no guarantee that anyone is reading your work (aside from maybe a professor in an academic setting) so why waste your time writing what you think your writer wants to hear? Instead, I agree with Woolf, write what is important to you and what you cannot help but explore. If you are excited about what you are writing that will translate to your reader. On the other hand, if you are bored to death of the topic you are researching and writing on then I fully believe that it will show within your work and it will not have the passion and drive necessary for a piece to have its own breath.

As I previously mentioned, one of the reasons Woolf became so well known was because of her influential and progressive writing style; Virginia Woolf was a modernist writer who was not afraid to break traditions. Used thoroughly throughout her novels, especially To The Lighthouse, Woolf experiments with Stream of Consciousness style. Stream of Consciousness is defined as being “a literary style in which a character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue” (“Dictionary”). From my recent research I have not found any essays of Virginia Woolf using this exact style of stream of consciousness as she does in her fiction however I do see elements of it. For example, in her essay “Why” Woolf does not follow chronological order, she uses dialogue though not always stating who is saying what, and she switches from idea to idea. This has the effect of a person’s real unedited thoughts. This is much more natural than a traditional structured essay. Though Woolf is still able to share her opinions and ideas clearly she is not following the typical form one may have followed in the 20th century. This style is much more story-like and imaginative which I love. There are even a few fragments. I really enjoy this because people don’t think in complete, properly prepared sentences. We think in fragments; sometimes our thoughts are jumbled and messy and confusing. Woolf is able to portray this with such poise and grace that a reader may not even notice this is what she is doing. She never tries too hard to get her point across; it is all very natural.

Woolf’s writing, especially her fiction, captures real moments of life. The monotonous day to day moments are portrayed so accurately that she is able to make them intriguing and worthy of discussion. Woolf is purely intimate with her writing. She explores topics as personal and terrifying such as death in her essay “The Death of a Moth.” In this essay she explores the fragility and fleetingness of life and its opportunities. She analyses the simplicity and complexity of life and death through the metaphor of a moth, a creature who I am sure we can all admit to overlooking. Woolf does not create a single use metaphor however. She creates an entire story arch around this moth and the symbol is comes to represent. She even has the reader rooting for this little moth, hoping it can fly on its own. The metaphor carries on throughout the entire essay, creating images and emotions for the audience to relate to. I hope I can include more of this in my writing. I really like metaphors but I have a hard time making them up on my own. I believe symbols are a great way to express deeper emotions which are harder to put into words. Virginia Woolf is a master of this art, especially within her essays.

Another thing I like about Virginia Woolf’s writing style is that it is autobiographical. The narrator is herself so she is able to share her own opinions openly. I think this is a nice balance for an essay and I like when authors are able to talk about their subject and themselves (their past, feelings, opinions) within a single essay. I think a writer’s bias is impossible to contain while writing so I enjoy when a writer, such as Virginia Woolf, is able to work her bias and experiences into a piece. I also believe that when I am writing essays it is more interesting and fun to write when I can include my own personal thoughts and opinions on a subject. Another important note for Woolf’s writing style, especially within “The Death of a Moth” is that her sentences are just interesting to read. She varies in sentence length and tone so the writing never get boring or drags on for too long. This is not something I ever focus on when writing essay because I am so focused on the ideas I am hoping to share. As I continue with my growth in the essay genre I hope I can better manipulate my style in order to keep the reader’s focus and interest.

One of the my favorite things about Virginia Woolf is that she forged the way for women, including but not limited to writers, in the beginning of the twentieth century. Woolf was unafraid of change and believed that women should be able to do anything a man does without shame or fear of being ridiculed. The 1930’s onward, in both literature and the world, have been forever changed by the work that Virginia Woolf dedicated her life to. Virginia woolf was brave, outspoken, unafraid to be different, and broke stereotypes for women. She does not believe that her gender should define her as a person nor that it should dictate how she should live her life; In short, she was a feminist. As a fellow feminist I admire her bravery and outspokenness with her beliefs. I find it intimidating to release into the word my unpopular opinions. I even have a hard time making politically charged posts on Facebook. I struggle with opening myself up to opportunities for backlash especially within writing and online. Albeit, Virginia Woolf started her beliefs with pride and integrity which I greatly look up to and hope to one day do the same.  

One of my favorite essays by Virginia Woolf, “Professions for a Woman” is an example of Woolf’s ability to share non-mainstream opinions without fear of being ridiculed.  I studied “Professions for a Woman” briefly in my Women in Literature class and though I read it well over a year ago I still think of this piece of writing very often. This essay was actually began as a speech read to the Women’s Service League. What I find particularly brilliant in this piece is the metaphor she creates in the piece, the “Angel of the House.” Again, exhibiting her ability to contrive original meaningful metaphors for topics which may seem impossible to discuss. Virginia Woolf wrote about the concept of every women referring to it as the “Angel of the House” in her essay Professions for Women. Angel of the House is the social construct of how every woman should act to be a proper woman. Woolf describes the Angel as being “intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the led; if there was a draft she sat in it– in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others” (Woolf 170). Woolf wishes to defy the Angel of the House in every way possible; she does not wish to be an empty mind just fulfilling the wants and desires of those around her, especially men.

I love how Woolf creates a huge metaphor which can be so easily imagined for what she is discussing. She is able to smash this idea of what women should be by destroying the “angel” itself. Woolf is such a talented writer that she makes the image of the angel of the house seem tangible, believable, and real. The reader can picture this perfect woman just as they can picture Woolf overcoming her.

I also appreciate how tongue-and-cheek her tone is particularly in the beginning of the essay. This essay is titled “Profession For Women.” This calls upon the stereotype that women can have professions such as secretaries, teachers, nurses however not engineers, surgeons, entrepreneur. She blatantly calls out patriarchal stereotypes. She also does not dismiss women who prefer to act as an angel of the house. Instead, she says it is not right for her or for her ability to write thus her personal need to destroy it.

Virginia Woolf’s essay range in topic but always remain wholly honest, vulnerable, and intimate. She has the magnificent talent of making even her informative essays personal. Woolf writes with her spirit not her body. What I mean is that she puts her whole heart and soul into her words, she is not simply gliding her pen along a page. She is so deeply intimate that the reader is compelled to feel connected to her. I admire this greatly because I often feel as if there is a 10 foot pole between myself (my true thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears) and my keyboard. Since taking Theory and Practice and learning more about the dynamics of the essay I have been attempting to smash this desire for space between my true feelings and my typed words. In the past, (the very recent past, as in two essays ago), I would never use common colloquial in an essay or even personal pronouns. I was used to facts, clean thorough sentences, and dressing up my words with a bow. Yet, as of late, I am thoroughly trying to be more open in my writing as Virginia Woolf was. It is much harder than I would have ever believed. I can tell that her openness and truthfulness are part of what makes her work so incredible and impossible to put down. Her captivating sentences come from honesty and authenticity. She is writing first and foremost for herself and for her own expression. The words she is writing are not for a check, or a grade, or to make someone else happy. She writes completely for herself and is brave enough to share it with the world. It is for that reason I will always admire Virginia Woolf. Plus the fact that she has the most beautiful gift with words… Also, she is a revolutionary  for literature… and she made incredible strides for woman… Okay so, maybe there are lots of reasons why Virginia Woolf is one of my personal heroes and why she is an essayist worth knowing.

Now I wonder, will I ever be?


Works Cited

“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.”

        Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster

Nicolson, Nigel. Virginia Woolf. New York: New York Times, 2000. Print.

The Biography.com website. “Virginia Woolf Biography.” Biography.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Sept. 2017.

Woolf, Virginia. Collected Essays of Virginia Woolf. Dead Authors Society, 2017.


Virginia Woolf is one of the most important essayist in the 20th century due to her authentic curiosity, holistic intimacy, extensive use of the stream of consciousness style, all of which is exhibited in her collected essays. Woolf’s authentic curiosity is seen within the subjects she investigates within her essays, especially within her piece “The Death of a Moth” where she questions life, death, and the fleetingness of life’s opportunities. Woolf also displays holistic intimacy within her writing because with every sentence Woolf is baring her soul to the reader; she holds nothing back and is completely honest and vulnerable for her audience. Every piece of Woolf’s writing is intimate to its core. For example, in her essay “Professions For Women” she describes an internal fight for wanting to be a proper feminine figure and wanting to be a writer who does not follow mainstream gender roles. Finally, Woolf is credited with the creation of the stream of consciousness style which is writing as a person thinks, switching from ideas quickly and writing more as a conscious flow rather than in full complete and coherent sentences. Through this style Woolf is able to write as one thinks; it is very natural, genuine, and realistic. It is seen throughout her essay “Why” which does not follow chronological order and switches quickly between thoughts and ideas.

(Exercise from class on 2/27)


 


 

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A Spoonful of Sugar (and a Dash of Vulnerability)


“Harvey” 2012

*

My knees are pressed hard into the stone cold ground of the public restroom and my head is fully submerged in the toilet bowl as I throw up what is left of my breakfast as the panic begins to sets in. I am sixteen years old and today is the day my life ends, or the day it starts — but there’s no in-between. Or at least that’s what it feels like. As a junior in high school every moment seems like the most important, like this moment is the moment that everything changes.

I have participated in competitive theatre throughout the entirety of my high school career. I know, competitive theatre, that sounds like an oxymoron but, I am the president of my theatre troupe which travels to different festivals to compete in Individual Events (commonly referred to as IE’s) and take workshops. This is basically everything to me. I nearly always compete in the IE category of Contrasting Monologues (two monologues differing greatly in style) but I’ve always had stage fright, which makes performing harder for me than most. And that’s why I can do nothing but dry heave my pancakes into the public toilet on the third floor of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Student Center.

I am at the national competition for the International Thespian Society. I had received perfect superior ratings at the state and regional level so I was now at the national competition to compete for the final round. While other students are rehearsing and perfecting their exactly 3 minute contrasting monologues I can barely keep my food in my stomach long enough to slate. I feel terrified to stand in front of the panel of adjudicators, alone with no props, set, or costume – just me, myself, and the contrasting monologues I have been working on every day for ten months. I am going to be completely vulnerable up on that stage – asking for criticism and feedback. I only have three minutes to show them who I am and the talent I have.

The part I am most nervous for is not the acting (I am as ready as I possibly can be). What I am afraid of is the vulnerability of being alone, asking the audience to enter a completely different world with me. When acting, you’re not the only one left vulnerable, you are also asking the audience to also be vulnerable by allowing their imagination to take over and to be open to the experience in front of them. If they aren’t open to experience the performance fully, if they find themself closed off or close-minded they won’t be able to feel the emotion or relate to the material. The audience members must allow themselves to feel and relate, which often makes people vulnerable to emotion and connection.

Myself at age 16 performing my Contrasting Monologues at the State level.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received about acting came from my high school director when I was preparing my extremely emotional, dramatic monologue for Nationals. I was portraying a character with a hidden drug addiction who was left hospitalized and alone. My director said to me, “vulnerability is the purest form of bravery.”

Though I did not connect completely with the character I was portraying, because I thankfully have never had a drug addiction or ever been hospitalized, I was able to feed off my real emotions of loneliness in times isolation and fear of the unknown, and I was able to use my own vulnerability to connect it to my character’s. To find truth in the lines and real emotions to connect back to are what makes a performance great. To be honest with oneself is how one is able to become an authentic and genuine performer which will translate in their performance.

* *

I’m crying offstage right in the wings only minutes before I am expected to make my entrance. This is the first time I’ve ever performed in front of an audience before and I’m so petrified I can’t even move, let alone dance! I am five years old and I have only been in dance classes for a few months but I know that dance is an art form I am going to love for the rest of my life.

I am a mouse in my ballet school’s annual production of The Nutcracker. I am crying so loudly that my dance teacher, Miss Samantha, has to come over, crouch down close to me, and calm me down. “Why can’t we just dance for each other like we always do? Why does there have to be a huge audience?” I beg her, unable to understand the complexities of my emotions and fear of making a misstep in front of such a large crowd. Miss Samantha laughs at my naivety. “Well, don’t you want your mom to see the dance you’ve been working so hard on?” She gently offers back. I am terrified to dance in front of an audience in case I forget the dance moves, or make a mistake, or in case they thought I was a bad dancer.

What I am feeling, though I will not realize it until year later when I am much older, is fear of vulnerability. I am terrified to put myself out on stage for judgment. It will not be until I am nearly an adult that I will understand why vulnerability is so essential to a meaningful, powerful performance. Every performer must become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to be successful. A performer must exude vulnerability in order to be successful because at its core, to perform is to be vulnerable. To perform is to put yourself in front of an audience for judgment, criticism, and feedback, both positive and negative.

“Grease” 2014

Performance is to bare one’s soul to an audience through whether it be through tragedy, comedy, or a mix. If a performer is not willing to be vulnerable in front of an audience there may be no audience, they may never perform for anyone except her mirror. Or on the other hand, their performance may not be worthy of an audience because it maybe be inauthentic, closed off, and not willing to be realistic if the truth and vulnerability is not present.

* * *

am sitting on stage waiting for my light cue which is my signal to stand up and begin my scene. My cast mates are seated beside me as they patiently wait for me to begin the scene. Their eyes watch me as I walk across the stage with faux confidence and sit in the chair beside my scene partner. My heart is pounding as I silently go over my lines and scan the audience. I am twenty-one years old, about to enter my second semester of senior year, and I am a cast member in the sexual violence prevention program No Zebras, No Excuses. Within the show my cast mates and I have to portray characters whose story arcs include rape, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and harassment. I am playing three characters in three separate scenes: an inactive bystander, a sexually assaulted woman, and a woman who pressures her boyfriend into having sex with her before he is ready.

My heart is racing not only due to my still imminent (and annoying) stage fright but also because this is the most vulnerable I have ever had to be for a performance. In order to make No Zebras, No Excuses successful the cast and I have to push ourselves further than ever before. To perform this play with intensity and honesty (which are necessary to make the audience understand the importance of sexual violence prevention) the cast has to be vulnerable and open from the start.

5 out of 10 cast members for “No Zebras, No Excuses” 2018

find myself wanting to retreat into myself and not play, Lucy, (the female aggressor) as aggressive as she had to be. She has to be over the top with sexual allure and manipulation as she convinces her boyfriend into sleeping with her after he tells her no multiple times throughout the scene. Having to portray such a twisted and conniving character makes me uncomfortable because I have to push myself to act differently than I ever would in real life. I do not want to portray Lucy as just a mere villain who the audience could brush off either. By channeling true vulnerability I was able to portray her in a more natural and grounded manner, thus making the character raw and easier to relate too.

One audience member may see him/herself in Lucy and the way she manipulates her boyfriend to get what she wants. Another audience member may relate Lucy to a friend or (ex)significant other. I wanted to make Lucy as realistic as possible because No Zebras, No Excuses was based off real experiences that happened at Keene State. If I portrayed Lucy in a phony way the audience could believe the situation we are starting a conversation about is not realistic because they could believe that these types of situations are completely fabricated. It was extremely important to portray these scenes around sexual violence with the utmost care and accuracy because we really wanted the message of prevention spread throughout campus for our incoming students.

Vulnerability is essential in the theatre because without it there is nothing risked. If there is no risk there is nothing at stake, no sense of urgency. It is that risk that keeps the audience interested and what impacts them most. Vulnerability is key to raw, believable emotion. Vulnerability allows an actor to put themselves fully into a role; Vulnerability from the audience allows for authentic connection between character and audience members; Present vulnerability on the stage is the reason theatre is as important because connection is impossible without it, and theatre at its core is about connection through storytelling.


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Understanding The Essay: A Form Of Storytelling

Taken from “Spongebob Squarepants” from the episode “Procrastination” on November 30, 2001


At its core the essay is a form of storytelling. It can be used to tell personal stories, stories of discovery, or to share academic information. An essay is a way to share ideas and information with others who you may not meet in your daily life. An essay written on my blog that was type in Keene, New Hampshire can be forwarded, mailed, and shared with people all over the world. The essay is a genre of writing that defies a set form or list of rules to follow; the one thing that every essay has in common is that it tells some kind of story through its paragraphs. For centuries, essayists and writers have attempted to define the essay, though most have trouble settling on a common definition. The reason the essay can cause such discourse when writers try to define it is because every essay is so unique. Essays can vary in length, subject, genre, and style. Essays fall on a spectrum of informal to formal, though they are always informative. The reason a person writes an essay is to explore ideas, propose original thoughts, and to explain things on a particular subject. Jean Starobinski describes in his essay, “Can One Define the Essay?” that essays are not a place for spontaneity but rather for practiced proposals and opinions. He states, “The word ‘essay’ does not announce the spontaneous prose of Montaigne, it signals a book where new ideas are proposed, an original interpretation of a controversial problem (Starobinski 111). Though essays are not spontaneous they can be experimental and groundbreaking. Due to the fact that each essay is unique in their approach the writer has a great deal of freedom to craft their essay to their preference. There are three main forms of essays for an essayist to write, each having their own strengths and stylistic characteristics; the three major types of essays are a personal essay, an expository essay, and a persuasive essay. Each form offers the writer a guideline to follow, though it is possible to push the boundaries with experimentalism.

 

Michel de Montaigne is one of the most notable influences on the modern essay. Montaigne was a French philosopher in the 16th century. Montaigne is widely credited with turning the essay in a literary genre. Montaigne titled his works as “essai.” It is explained in the book Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time in Robert Atwan’s essay  “Notes Towards the Definition of an Essay” that “The etymology of essai can be traced to the late Latin exagium, which meant ‘to weigh’ or a ‘weight’” (Atwan 195). This is a fascinating word choice due to the connotation that weight has. This signifies that the words one writes in an essay have a weight, significance, and importance to them. Weight can also have positive and negative preconceived notions attached to it. Another way to think about this is to assume that within an essay the author is weighing in with their own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. The essay is a space for a writer to openly exercise their voice and take their own stance on controversial ideas or even create their own discussion. Carl H. Claus explain in his 2012 essay “Toward a Collective Poetics of the Essay” that it is important for a writer to feel safe to share their honest and crafted words. He states, “it might be said that above all else essayists conceive of the essay as a place of intellectual refuge, a domain sacred to the freedom of the mind itself (Claus xxi).

 

A personal essay is an essay in which the author is recalling on one or multiple specific events within their life. The essay centers around the author. Jean Starobinski describes this simply in his essay “Can One Define the Essay? by saying, “to fully satisfy the law of the essay, ‘the essayer’ must have a go at himself” (Starobinski 114). This explains that the personal essay must be willing to be honest, vulnerable, and centering around the genuinity of the author.

The personal essay is typically informal and breaks barriers that formal writing often creates such as: using first person, discussing personal opinions, and talking about personal emotions. A personal essay may also be called a narrative essay. The personal essay is the most honest, raw version of written storytelling. There is no barrier between the audience and the writer. Most easiest try to be as vulnerable and honest as possible through this from. Though an autobiography is a type of personal essay a personal essay does differs from a memoir because it is much shorter. A personal essay is a glimpse into one’s life whereas a memoir is a more well-rounded expose. Personal essays can have genres within this style. For example, “My Father’s Body at Rest and in Motion” by Siddhartha Mukherjee was a personal essay published in The New Yorker in early January of 2018. Though this article was a personal essay it also had aspects of science and health. The essay was in equal parts emotional, as it told the story of the death of his father, and rational, as it calmly explained how he body began to fail. Mukherjee has a rare talent for the beauty of contorting words have negative meanings, such as medical terminology, and turning it into the passionate story of saying goodbye to someone you have never imagined living without. Another notable trait that Mukherjee exercises within this essay is that he weaves from past to present in the essay, sharing many stories in one. This exemplifies the beauty of the essay, especially the personal essay, because it can be tailored to the likes of the author. There is no strict regulation to follow so the essayist is able to bend the form to work best for them. In the personal essay not only is it accepted that the author can share their opinion and thoughts, it is also expected. There is a great deal of freedom and room for experimentation within the personal essay because each essayist is able to create their own story and technique in which they share it.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum of a personal essay is the expository essay, which is the most formal essay type there is. This is analysis and research heavy genre. In this style the writer is proposing new ideas and opinions and supporting them with facts, research, and proof. This genre does not contain personal anecdotes, emotions, or opinions because it is believed to weaken the argument. This means that personal pronouns are rarely used. This essay is the most popular amongst college students and in the world of academia. Many expository essays become groundbreaking work that can change the field in which they correspond to, becoming secondary sources for other writers or even changing the way people think on a certain topic. Expository essays can be written on any subject in any field, not just within the world of other essays and literary genres. Though it may not be evident, expository essays are still a form of storytelling because an author is writing in order to connect with others and explain a particular topic to them. This topic is clearly close to their heart because they spend so much time explaining it within the essay. This gives insight to the author and also allows for a fluid movement of information from one person to another, connecting on a similar interest in a topic.

 

The final major essay type is a persuasive essay. A persuasive essay attempts to convince the reader of their stance on a particular subject. A persuasive essay is a very popular essay genre within the classroom., especially within grade school and high school. This form is widely used within the schooling system because a writer has to defend their opinion with facts and a well rounded argument in order to convince their reader of their stance. This form also allows for the writer to focus on something they are passionate about so they are able to backup their facts with opinions, emotions, passion, and interest. This form requires research and solid facts as well, which are important skills for students to master. Persuasive essays and most essays taught in school teach the student not to use personal pronouns within their work. This is highly controversial and there is neither a right nor wrong answer. Some argue that writing within the first person in a formal essay weakens the essay because personal opinions cannot be proven true or backed up with facts; however, others believe using personal pronouns strengthen the argument because the writer is able to backup their papers with emotion, passion, and original ideas that readers may have never been exposed to before. The persuasive essay is a very personal type of storytelling because the essayist is sharing their beliefs and opinions within the essay yet also supporting them with fact. This balance is a great way to equally share information and share pieces of oneself with the audience.

 

Though difficult to describe and impossible to give a single definition to, the essay is an incredibly important aspect to the world of writing. The essay allows writers to share opinions and new proposals while being supported by facts and research. Though the essay focuses mainly on the goal of sharing information it also can have a focus on artistry and the art of creating stories in the written word. Essays allow for creativity to flourish and give the writer enough freedom to write as they choose fit. Each style of essay allows the writer a different criteria to follow. The personal essay is for informal writing which centers around the author, their life, and their personal opinions. The persuasive essay is a style in which the author is able to share why their opinion should be shared by the reader and the author is able to support their findings along with their passion and opinions. Finally, the expository essay allows the essayist a forum for presenting their research, findings, and new ideas. To understand the essay one must understand that writing is a form of communication; whether 1,000 people read your essay of 1 person reads it, an essay is written to share ideas. An essay is a form of storytelling whether or not the story is about the author. The story could be informational facts, opinions, or a personal narrative, however, each form gives different insights to the author in order to connect with their reader. The most fitting definition for the essay comes from essayist Robert Atwan in his intriguing essay “Notes Towards the Definition of an Essay.” Atwan states the most straight forward, barebones definition of the essay which gives essayist both the freedom to experiment with the genre of essays yet also gives guidelines for expectations and context. Atwan concludes his essay with his thoughtful and insightful definition as he states: “the essay whether long or short, narrative, expository or polemical, is a literary genre that enacts the processes and possibilities of thought and self-disclosure in a distinctive prose style.”

 


 

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