The Essay as an Endangered Species: Should We Care?

The Essay as an Endangered Species...

The essay as a literary genre has, over the centuries, delivered profound insights into a wide range of topics and even contributed to social and political change. As part of academic apprenticeship, the essay has served to develop students’ intellectual and reflective qualities and to assess their mastery of many different disciplines. Yet, in recent times, the essay has lost some of its allure, arguably becoming an endangered species both in its political and academic uses. Politics and public debates are increasingly dominated by gladiatorial spectacles, punditry, sound bites and an overt commercialization of political campaigning. Academic research in the social sciences, for its part, has come to rely increasingly on a genre of scientific writing, the ‘research paper’, which has become institutionalized and has moved increasingly away from the qualities of the essay. For the purpose of student assessment, essay-writing is rapidly replaced by other types of academic work such as projects, case studies, portfolios, tests, and indeed ‘papers’… [Read More]

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