Chris Offutt: The Definitive Taxonomy of Literary Terms

April 26, 2010 § 6 Comments


Thank goodness Chris Offutt came along and finally cleared up all of this genre confusion:

personal essay: Characterized by 51 percent or more of its sentences beginning with the personal pronoun “I”; traditional narrative strategy entails doing one thing while thinking about another.

literary essay: Akin to the personal essay, only with bigger words and more profound content intended to demonstrate that the essayist is smarter than all readers, writers, teachers, and Europeans.

lyric essay: An essay with pretty language.

nature essay: An essay written by a person claiming to have a closer relationship with the natural world than anyone else does; traditional subject matter is sex, death, and how everything was better in the past.

pop culture essay: An essay written by someone who prefers to shop or watch television.

academic essay: Alas, an unread form required for tenure.

experimental writing: The result of supreme artistic courage when a writer is willing to sacrifice structure, character, plot, insight, wisdom, social commentary, context, precedent, and punctuation.

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