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What is an Essay?: A Roundtable 

Thursday 4 February 2021, 5.00PM



  • Alexandra Kingston-Reese (University of York) - Chair
  • Kathryn Murphy (Oriel College, Oxford) co-editor On Essays (OUP, 2020)
  • Brian Dillon (Queen Mary) author of Essaysisms (Fitzcarraldo, 2017) 
  • Nicole Wallack (Columbia University) co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay (forthcoming)
  • Kara Wittman (Pomona College), co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to the Essay (forthcoming)
  • Jason Childs (Independent Scholar), co-editor of The Cambridge History of the American Essay and the Cambridge History of the British Essay (both forthcoming)

Famously defined through its etymological root 'essayer', meaning 'to try', 'to attempt', the essay is one of the most diverse and most evasive literary forms. Touching on cultural criticism, political and philosophical treatise, journalism, autobiography, observation, theory, fragment, aphorism, lectures, and academic writing, the essay is not only a dynamic, if undefined, art form, it is one that is fundamentally tied to the mechanisms and strategies through which we read and write about art and life. 

Despite the pervasiveness of the essay in literary culture, there has been a significant lack of scholarly work on the form. This roundtable brings together academics who are writing and editing exciting new research on the essay. Each panelist will give a brief position paper sharing their emerging research on the essay, followed by a discussion and open Q&A. 

Please register your attendance via this link

ContactDr Lola Boorman (


Location: Zoom