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Walking with a purpose: the essay in contemporary nonfiction

Moran, J (2017) Walking with a purpose: the essay in contemporary nonfiction. Textual Practice. ISSN 0950-236X

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Taking John D’Agata’s and David Shields’s notion of the ‘lyric essay’ as a starting point, this article discusses Anglophone nonfiction infused by what Claire de Obaldia calls ‘the essayistic spirit’. This kind of writing – by authors such as Annie Dillard, Maggie Nelson, Rebecca Solnit, Eula Biss, Edmund de Waal and Philip Hoare - is generically hybrid, associative, poetically inflected, and rooted in both the concreteness of the world and in metaphysical and ontological questioning. It is fragmentary in form, drawing freely on other sources in a way familiar from contemporary art, music sampling and the internet. But it often has a critical relationship to the material it appropriates, reworking the memes and bromides of contemporary media culture and looking askance at the dispersed attention and instant, pseudo-knowledge of the online age. In contrast with the polarised certainties of post-internet public discourse, it is intrinsically unfanatical. It includes elements of refracted, incomplete autobiography in a way that offers an elliptical corrective to our age of oversharing and emotional unrestraint. In an electronically mediated culture, it is drawn to the non-virtual and sensual, demanding a sustained engagement with its own unique attempt to make sense of the real.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Textual Practice on 6th January 2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/0950236X.2016.1275758
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2016 08:34
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 12:31
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/0950236X.2016.1275758
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4145
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