Jennifer Cognard-Black, professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, recently published Becoming a Great Essayist through the Great Courses Program. Her release includes essays from students and faculty colleagues who contributed. The Great Courses are a series of educational classes offered to “surround the world’s greatest teachers with a team of experts who collaborate on crafting a customized and entertaining educational journey.”
Commenting on the release, Cognard-Black says, “Becoming a Great Essayist is a course for anyone who has a story to tell. That story might be a personal one, arising out of a writer’s own, lived experience. Or that story might be a more social one, taking on a political or an intellectual topic. Either way, such stories may be shaped into essays, for in an essay, the purpose is for a writer to connect his or her own memories and ideas to the experiences of others.”
She goes on to explain, “Essays move the private to the public, the self to the world. As such, essayists also embrace the first-person ‘I.’ And it’s through this intimacy and vulnerability of the ‘I’ perspective that an essayist reaches beyond mere facts to get at larger human truths. What’s perhaps most exciting about the essay, though, is that it’s a highly adaptable and flexible form. Once a writer adopts the first-person “I” and has a story to tell, that story might take the form of a food essay, a travel essay, a polemic, a portrait, a memoir, or a lyrical essay. The creative and intellectual possibilities for essayists are diverse and exciting, as rich and as strange as the stories that each of us has to share.”
Cognard-Black follows in the footsteps of David Kung, professor of mathematics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, who has two offerings through the Great Courses.
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