On the Familiar Essay: Challenging Academic Orthodoxies

Hardcover | October 15, 2009

byG. Douglas Atkins

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Rooted in close reading of texts, including the essays of E.B. White, this comprehensive assessment of the oft-slighted subform of the literary essay situates the familiar at the heart of the essay as form.

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Rooted in close reading of texts, including the essays of E.B. White, this comprehensive assessment of the oft-slighted subform of the literary essay situates the familiar at the heart of the essay as form.

G. Douglas Atkins is Professor of English at the University of Kansas, winner of several awards for distinguished teaching, and the author of more than a dozen books, including Estranging the Familiar (a Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year).

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 8.54 × 5.71 × 0.67 inPublished:October 15, 2009Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230620000

ISBN - 13:9780230620001

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Table of Contents

The Observing Self, or Writing upon Something: The Character, Art, and Distinctiveness of the Familiar Essay * On Time, the Familiar, and the Essay * Envisioning the Stranger’s Heart * E.B. White and the Poetics of Participation  * “The Way Life Should Be,” or The Maine-ing of Existence: E.B.White as Familiar Essayist * The Limits of the Familiar: E.B. White and T.S. Eliot * Towards a Familiar Literary Criticism * Of  Swords, Ploughshares, and Pens: The Return of/to Civility, Against Winning, and the Art of Peace * The Essay in the Academy: Between “Literature” and “Creative Writing” * Essaying to Be: Higher Education, the Vocation of Teaching, and the Making of  Persons

Editorial Reviews

“In this timely revalorization of the form, Atkins shows the unexpected depths of the familiar essay.  Far from being the lightweight pieces dismissed by their detractors as trivial, he shows how, at their best, such essays are exquisitely crafted intersections of time and timelessness.  Their indirectness, individuality and warmth suggest a way of knowing that at once challenges and complements the clinical prose of conventional academic articles.  Essayists, says Atkins, are endeavoring ‘to write personally and artfully about the familiar and through it to approach the universal.’  His study calls for a meticulous reading of their work in order, ultimately, for the reader to learn from it ‘how to make the most of the short time we have on earth.”  Quoting extensively from acknowledged masters of this neglected mode of writing, Atkins provocatively questions the adequacy of established educational procedures and champions a pedagogy informed by essayistic ideals.”—Chris Arthur, author of Irish Nocturnes, Irish Willow, Irish Haiku and Irish Elegies “In these pages, Atkins richly models the exploratory, revelatory pursuit that he calls the familiar essay.  The essays he celebrates range outward from personal experience to impersonal, even cosmic concerns.  They marry literature and philosophy, wisdom and wit.  Through illuminating readings of figures as diverse as E. B. White and T. S. Eliot, Atkins confirms his position as the leading interpreter of this various and vital mode of art.”—Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe “In these deeply felt and elegantly expressed thoughts about the essay, Atkins offers a moving account of the hard work of self examination in a difficult world.  His book is also both an apologia for and a gentle critique of Atkins’s own ‘vocation’ to an academic life.  But unlike Marxist or disciplinary commentaries on the profession, this essay invokes the much rarer language of spirituality—of value—to engage, disturb, and inspire its readers.”—Patricia Harkin, Professor, English and Communication Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago