Sunday 1 February 2015

On Essays

A friend recently suggested to me that there was no way she could do well at [humanities subject]. Despite being reliably articulate, and having a deep interest in the subject, she was convinced she could never be so virtuosic as to write a Good Essay, like a proper Student of Literature. I found this pretty horrifying, but I suppose it's not hard to see why certain parts of the humanities might cultivate this sort of harmful mystique about basic writing skills.

In particular, I point the finger at literary criticism, which has spent the last few decades in a desperate struggle to prove its own worth and relevance. It's not that lit crit shouldn't exist; someone ought to be keeping an eye on our civilisation's cultural output. But as a discipline, it is embarrassingly insecure, and it's not hard to see why.