The Essay as Form and Practice

In this course students will explore the essay as a literary genre. We’ll discuss the personal essay with its reflective and even lyrical features, and examine the more overtly public orientation of persuasive essays. Since the essay is such a ubiquitous and flexible form of communication, relied upon for a wide variety of needs, we’ll examine the ways in which colors of the personal distinction “blendingly enter,” to use Herman Melville’s phrase, those of the public distinction. There is no hard boundary between the two, and understanding this allows the student to see a writer’s work as an expression of self-definition. Moreover, it allows the student to see the writer coming to terms with how she or he has been defined by history and culture.

We’ll practice intensive reading, looking at the craft of an essay; we’ll be alert to rhetorical devices and figures (how a thought or feeling is expressed). For example, we will read and discuss Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to consider not only his rhetorical style, but also the evidence of how thoroughly he understood his audience and how carefully he developed the logical progression of his argument. (Please note that this discussion will necessarily involve thinking about race and racism in the United States.)

We’ll pay close attention to the stages of writing an essay: discovery, responses and appeals, and revision. Students will write personal, broadly descriptive, and persuasive essays; they will produce short reflection pieces on the readings, inquisitive in nature, exploring themes and personal responses, which may be developed for the essays. While the course is not a creative writing workshop, a central component of the course involves each student in a shepherding role. The student will help guide a discussion of a fellow writer’s essay, a practice that will develop skills in literary analysis. Finally, we’ll consider the college application essay.

Fall 2020 Registration for this Course Opens on February 27.

This Course is Offered in the Spring Semester Only

PLEASE NOTE:   We are gauging student interest in this course before opening it for Registration.   If you would like to take this class, please click on the "I'M INTERESTED" button below. If we receive sufficient responses, we will endeavor to make the course available for the 2019 Spring term.  

Enrollment for this class is closed for Fall 2021.

Prerequisites:  None
Instructor:  Lawrence Wray, M.A.
Age Level:  13 - Adult
Grade Level: --
Minimum Enrollment Required: 5 students
Maximum Enrollment: 15 students

Tuition per Semester:  $390

Class Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Pacific

Fall enrollment is closed. Students may be able to enroll with the instructor’s permission. Please contact Spring registration opens Oct 18th.

(If you would like to enroll in this class but cannot attend at the posted time, please contact us.  We may be able to open an additional section.)

Problems Registering?    Click here    for help.  

Lawrence Wray, M.A.

Lawrence Wray has taught writing and literature for over thirty years. As a homeschooling parent, teaching in an education cooperative in Pittsburgh, Lawrence helped students develop their understanding and facility with the personal essay. His teaching experience includes writing courses at Pennsylvania State University, a Graduate Teaching Fellowship at Duquesne University where, among other things, he studied the poetry of women writers at the end of the eighteenth century. Prior to this, Lawrence studied philosophy and comparative literature at Binghamton University where he taught writing-intensive courses. His undergraduate degree—English, creative writing, and Classical literature with an emphasis in Latin—was completed at the University of Arizona. Lawrence is a member of the Connecticut River Poetry and Poetics seminar, an annual meeting that emerged from the Frost Place Advanced Poetry Seminar, and publishes poetry in journals such as Coal Hill Review, St. Katherine Review, Presence, Relief, and Poetry Salzburg Review.


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The Abundance


The Fire Next Time


Meditations from a Moveable Chair

Other reading selections, including Virginia Wolff, "The Death of a Moth" and Martin Luther King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail."