Exhilaration. The joy of surprise. A sense of guilt for not having done something before. That is what I felt when I recently read David Foster Wallace’s 2004 essay, ‘Consider the Lobster’, for the first time. I’d read about this essay a number of times before and I knew how important its author is (was—sadly,... Continue Reading →
At least until Virginia Woolf, the art of the essay was a predominantly male tradition with the essay seen as a form in which the learned man (often in middle or old age) addresses his readers as if conversing at a table during dinner among friends. While the last hundred years have seen the rise... Continue Reading →
The sick man becomes a king of his own world and, unlike the opening to the world that suffering brings to those noble of spirit in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Lamb speaks of how sickness makes us more selfish and self-centred than usual...
Suspend (verb) Temporarily prevent from continuing or being in force or effect. Hang from somewhere. No matter how often I fly, my body never feels prepared for that moment when the plane leaps off the ground. I have been on planes often enough to know the routine well…the taxying, the turning, the standing still, the... Continue Reading →
This week, I am in Amiens, France, to speak at a conference on 'Echoes of Echo in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present'. I've chosen to speak about William Hazlitt's very frequent quoting (and misquoting) of William Shakespeare in his essays. You can get more information as well as catch a glimpse of... Continue Reading →
What happens to us when we come face to face with the immense power of the universe, and when our everyday beliefs and behavior no longer seem to apply?
The genre of the essay allows for an almost interminable list of subjects, ranging from the serious to the trivial, the abstract to the concrete, the expected to the surprising. Richard Steele’s ‘Love-Letters’ shows flexibility, not only of subject but also of form, by being a somewhat practical analysis of the best ways for men... Continue Reading →
In this short video, I talk about Wendell Berry's 1982 essay, 'Getting Along with Nature', which I read through Maltese attitudes towards nature on the day of the collapse of the Azure Window in Dwejra, Gozo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDK9eepgsJE
The dam—a product of man—ultimately takes on a life of its own and ironically, in so doing, it makes the poignancy of human ephemerality all the more tangible...
The video below is a 10-minute discussion of Seneca’s letter/essay ‘On Noise’. As you will see from the video, the essay is not only worth reading for the insights on what is a very topical issue (how far can we think in the absence of silence?) but also for Seneca’s epigrammatic and aphoristic style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rGbUI0QP-s&feature=youtu.be
Today, we look at Charles Lamb (1775-1834), who many consider to be one of the greatest English essayists of all time. A contemporary and friend of key minds and writers of the time, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Hazlitt, Lamb is not read as widely as he should be. This, I believe, is a pity not... Continue Reading →
To understand what an 'essay' is, you have to read as many essays as possible. The term is incredibly flexible, as shown for instance, in Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French's edited book, Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time (University of Iowa Press, 2012). This book brings together an impressive range of texts in... Continue Reading →