Becoming a Great Essayist

Becoming a Great Essayist
Show More

24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Steal, Adopt, Adapt: Where Essays Begin
First, learn what the essay is--and what it is not. See how the practice of writing essays has evolved over centuries yet has remained versatile, and examine the many uses…
Episode 2 Memory Maps and Your Essay’s Direction
Much like a photographer who can change the angle, lens, lighting, and focus of a scene to evoke emotion from viewers, a writer colors an essay with his or her…
Episode 3 Secrets, Confession, and a Writer’s Voice
One of the most remarkable consequences of essay writing is the illuminating insights you discover about yourself. The nature of the essay doesn't allow for plot building or outlines--you simply…
Episode 4 The Skeptical Essayist: Conflicting Views
Many essayists find themselves doing an about-face as they write, sometimes because they may not have fully researched or thought through an idea before making claims about it. Essays that…
Episode 5 The Reasonable Essayist: Artistic Proofs
Professor Cognard-Black introduces you to artistic proofs, which are grounded in your expertise and colored by your own observations and experiences. The most important artistic proof in any essay is…
Episode 6 The Unreasonable Essayist: Strategic Irony
After discussing the importance of presenting a reasonable essay, Professor Cognard-Black explores the world of unreasonable essays, often written for the sake of humor or irony, or to be provocative,…
Episode 7 The Empathetic Essayist: Evoking Emotion
Revisit Aristotle to master the craft of pathos--being able to express empathy for the subject of any essay. Learn how to elicit emotions from your readers while remaining authentic and…
Episode 8 When an Essayist’s Feelings Face Facts
To help keep your essays from becoming overly sentimental, Professor Cognard-Black discusses pitfalls for writers to avoid. You'll be introduced to three examples of what rhetorical theorists call logical fallacies…
Episode 9 Unabashedly Me: The First-Person Essay
The use of a first-person perspective in essay writing is a powerful tool that invokes intimacy, empathy, and witness. Ethos is more inherent in an "I" essay because the person…
Episode 10 Essayists as Poets: Tapping into Imagery
This lecture opens by inviting you to "walk into" a photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1893 and reflect on what you would feel, smell, hear, and taste if you…
Episode 11 The Visual Essay: Words + Pictures
Writing a visual essay requires you to detach yourself from how you have been taught to view images your whole life. Rather than passively observing and judging, you must challenge…
Episode 12 Writing Inch by Inch: From Draft to Polish
Professor Cognard-Black guides you through Aristotle's process of inventio or invention, which is that period of discovery as you write your first draft. You'll examine openings from a number of…
Episode 13 Short Forms: Microessays and Prose Poems
Learn how essays can break the rules of conventional writing, allowing you to design essay forms to match your needs rather than being forced to fit the rules of more…
Episode 14 The Memoir Essay
A memoir is often confused with a personal essay, but Professor Cognard-Black shows you the difference, once again using examples from her own students' work. She then provides numerous tips…
Episode 15 Lyric Essays: Writing That Sings
From the Greek "lyre," a lyric poem expresses a writer's thoughts and feelings through the intimacy of the first-person narrator, evoking a strong emotional reaction in the audience. Professor Cognard-Black…
Episode 16 The Epistolary Essay: Letters to the World
Professor Cognard-Black reveals a common form of communication that is rarely thought of as an essay, though it often is: the letter. Coupled with an engaging activity, you'll see how…
Episode 17 Portrait Essays: People in Words
One of the most important parts of portrait essays is to understand that any depiction of another person--whether a famous stranger or a family member--is also a depiction of the…
Episode 18 The Essayist as Public Intellectual
While public intellectual essays don't step outside personal reflection, they do grapple with social issues, often myth-busting popular beliefs. This style of writing is distinct from a portrait or lyric…
Episode 19 Polemical Essays: One-Sided Arguments
Originating in the medieval period, polemical essays are the form for writers who wish to focus on a topic from one perspective only. They are often written to be deliberately…
Episode 20 Historical Essays: Past as Present
See how non-artistic proofs are immensely important when crafting a historical essay, especially since history is subjective, and the way you tell the story shapes how it will be understood.…
Episode 21 Humor Essays
One of the most surprising insights into humor essays is the revelation that most humor comes from misfortune. This idea has been around for centuries, as even Aristotle noted that…
Episode 22 Nature Essays
Nature essays can easily come across as unrealistic. Since the first nature essays were written in the 19th century, such pieces have often romanticized the natural world--but there is value…
Episode 23 Food Essays: My Grandmother’s Recipe Box
Professor Cognard-Black shows you how a simple recipe is itself a story. As she explains, "It sets a scene, forms a plot, arrives at a climax, and ends with a…
Episode 24 Sharing Your Essays: From Blog to Book
The modern form of the essay may be seen daily in blogs, although not all blogs are essays--instead, many are no more than personal journals, rants, or fantasies without broader…

Related videos

How Great Science Fiction Works
Robots, spaceships, futuristic megacities, planets orbiting distant stars. These icons of science fiction are now in our daily news. Science fiction, once maligned as mere pulp, has motivated cutting-edge scientific research, inspired new technologies, and changed how we view everyday life - and its themes and questions permeate popular culture.…
How to Publish Your Book
With the advent of submission conveniences offered by the Internet, today's authors face unprecedented competition in the writing market. Adding to that the publishing market is in a constant state of flux, making publishers wary about taking on new authors. Further, a plethora of options for publication make navigating the…
The Skeptical Essayist: Conflicting Views
Many essayists find themselves doing an about-face as they write, sometimes because they may not have fully researched or thought through an idea before making claims about it. Essays that present conflicting views are not uncommon; Socrates would commonly switch sides in order to test all parts of an argument,…
The Reasonable Essayist: Artistic Proofs
Professor Cognard-Black introduces you to artistic proofs, which are grounded in your expertise and colored by your own observations and experiences. The most important artistic proof in any essay is ethos--the writer's ethical appeal or credibility. She demonstrates how to effectively use ethos along with logos or rationality to bring…
The Unreasonable Essayist: Strategic Irony
After discussing the importance of presenting a reasonable essay, Professor Cognard-Black explores the world of unreasonable essays, often written for the sake of humor or irony, or to be provocative, such as Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." You'll explore an example of an essay that showcases conflicting views yet remains…
The Empathetic Essayist: Evoking Emotion
Revisit Aristotle to master the craft of pathos--being able to express empathy for the subject of any essay. Learn how to elicit emotions from your readers while remaining authentic and not manipulative, cliched, or contrived. Reflect on honest and moving uses of language from Maxine Hong Kingston and Barack Obama,…
When an Essayist’s Feelings Face Facts
To help keep your essays from becoming overly sentimental, Professor Cognard-Black discusses pitfalls for writers to avoid. You'll be introduced to three examples of what rhetorical theorists call logical fallacies and then take on the challenge of an assignment that brings together emotional appeals with rational ones to achieve credibility,…
The Essayist as Public Intellectual
While public intellectual essays don't step outside personal reflection, they do grapple with social issues, often myth-busting popular beliefs. This style of writing is distinct from a portrait or lyric essay. Professor Cognard-Black demonstrates this difference through her own examples and those of well-known public intellectuals, such as Ralph Waldo…
Essayists as Poets: Tapping into Imagery
This lecture opens by inviting you to "walk into" a photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1893 and reflect on what you would feel, smell, hear, and taste if you were actually in the scene. Only after you've noted the reactions of those senses are you then invited to describe…
The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction
Great mystery and suspense writers have created some of the most unforgettable stories in all of literature and they continue to grow in popularity. How did the genre become so prevalent? Why is it a go-to for so many readers around the world? What makes the dark and sometimes grisly…
Steal, Adopt, Adapt: Where Essays Begin
First, learn what the essay is--and what it is not. See how the practice of writing essays has evolved over centuries yet has remained versatile, and examine the many uses of essays across the ages. Numerous essayists find starting out to be the most daunting part of writing. Professor Cognard-Black…
Memory Maps and Your Essay’s Direction
Much like a photographer who can change the angle, lens, lighting, and focus of a scene to evoke emotion from viewers, a writer colors an essay with his or her individual perspective simply by relaying his or her truth of it. This lecture focuses on looking at the world around…