saying .” ― oscar wilde upon retirement W r i t i n g

saying .” ― oscar wilde upon retirement W r i t i n g



“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” ― Oscar Wilde

Upon retirement in 1571, Michel de Montaigne spent his time in the French countryside reading and writing, where he claimed to be merely “essaying” – which in French means trying – a kind of exploratory, unresolved thinking on the page. Montaigne suggested that in writing about himself, he was also “undertaking a study, the subject of which is the man.” Essays traffic in ideas, asking questions and explaining thinking in order to help the reader become equally enthralled.

This paper is a true essay in the classical sense that the writer should discover, articulate, and express personal insights as they intersect with and circle around a specific topic or experience. Writing consultant Katherine Bomer in her publication “The Journey is Everything” states “The kind of writing I am arguing for in this book: prose pieces that are personal, lyrical, literary, descriptive, reflective, narrative, expository, philosophical, political, spiritual…all of the above.” Your goal? To craft an essay that has room for everything – essays linger, arouse, question, travel, contradict, reveal and expose the mind.


üBe personal. Narrate your own story/experience in the first person, cultivate a voice

üSet up the text, context, and approach in a way that allows you to enter the conversation

üUse at least one class/college/life idea or moment as a “touchstone” – a foundation for your inquiry

üExplore the larger contextual elements (moment in history, geography, age, situation…)

üPossess a controlling idea, but also be creative, organic, logical – not formulaic

üBe honest and accurate – identify and name your ideas, places, moments, setting

  • Possess a thoughtful, creative conclusion – a good essay have striking beginnings and endings

üInclude quoted credible sources (writers, current voices, critics, peers).

üUse an epigraph to creatively contextualize your contribution to the conversation (see Wilde quote)

Audience: Your intended audience is up to you; it could be other students (current or incoming), your

professor or any demographic you envision would benefit from your content.

Purpose: To grow through the act of writing, to pour yourself onto the page and write an essay you are proud of, to tell a story, make connections, push ideas and play with words in a way that is engaging – to essay.

Length: 5-6 pages long, MLA format & works cited page minimum of three outside credible (2 must be peer-reviewed) and varied sources


Topic: The field is wide open! The foundation for your topic could be one dynamic idea from a journal writing experience, one beautiful line from reading, one random insight from a lecture, or the intersection of all of these in a drunken conversation with your roommate. You must follow your own curiosity and thinking while essaying; search your journal entries for inspired moments or use ideas from your college journey to jumpstart your inquiry. Consider how your observations and experiences connect with your interests/field, challenge your values, or expand your understanding. You might go big (and reflect on your entire college experience) or go small (and analyze your growth in a mere 10 journal entries); the scope is up to you. Think about the connections you have made this semester in your life, writing, thinking, and figure out what it might mean

After or before the writing answer these question in 500 words

  1. Dedicate your journal this week to grappling with potential essay topics – what do you have to say?
  2. Go back and survey your journal entries; decide on a moment, idea, topic, or lesson that could inspire your essaying journey.

Consider the writing strategies we’ve covered and decide who your audience is and how you’ll affect them with your writing. Remember, this essay is a blending of the writing style of Paper #2 and research.

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