The Essay as Genre - NeMLA, Hartford, CT, March 17-20th, 2016

full name / name of organization: 
Johanna Rossi Wagner, Penn State Univ & Kathleen LaPenta, Fordham Univ


Despite the numerous exegeses in defense of the form from Lukács to Bakhtin, the essay remains a peripheral form of cultural production. Often praised as knowledge in-progress, the essay is experimental and variable ranging in scope from highly personal prose to timely political photography and film. Though the essay remains central to academic and theoretical discourse, it is often a space of anti-scholasticism and political transgression considered supplementary to traditional narratives.

This panel seeks to examine the various ways that the essay as genre contributes to contemporary arts and letters. How do these often non-fiction, meta-literary paratexts serve to inform readings of an artist's work? How do they shed light on the role of artist as reader or curator? How do they negotiate language differently from more traditional, or main-stream texts? We invite papers on any aspect of the essay in teaching, research or other arenas.

Please submit 300 word abstracts and a brief bio through the NeMLA website ( by September 30, 2015.

For inquiries email: Kathleen LaPenta ( and Johanna Rossi Wagner (