Call for Essays Examining the Nonfiction of Social Justice

November 14, 2016 § 5 Comments

A note from Karen Babine, editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies:

zzstOn Wednesday morning, we, like many of you, had no idea how to walk into our classrooms, what to say to our students. The results of the election were paralyzing to many of us. Many of us are still paralyzed. It was a Facebook post from a friend that got me there: “Educators, get out of bed. We have work to do.” My Wednesday composition class’s plan to talk about Aristotle’s Three Appeals seemed beyond ridiculous. So, like many of you, I scrapped my lesson plan, but I was in class with my students at my urban community college in the north suburbs of Minneapolis. I’m still struggling to find words—in class this week, I couldn’t even finish my sentences and my students just looked at me and nodded. They didn’t have words either. In that space, I relied on the words of others to fill that void.

Writers: we have work to do.

This week, the Assay staff decided that while we would still like to have a focus on Best American Essays in our spring issue (to continue our celebration of BAE’s 30th anniversary), we would like to fill our pages with the nonfiction of social justice. We’re looking for full scholarly articles, we’re looking for informal analysis, we’re looking for pedagogy of all sorts, the incredible variety of forms that Assay likes best. We’re looking for the voices we need now, more than ever. Who are the writers of color we need to read (and teach), now more than ever? The LGBTQ writers we need, now more than ever? The environmental writers, as we struggle against the future incarnations of the EPA? Who are the other voices about to be marginalized even further? What are the particular texts, the individual essays, the full-length books? What lesson plans have you developed? Perhaps an explication of a nonfiction assignment? What did you read with your students this week when you tossed out your original plan?

Assay’s spring issue comes out in March, a few weeks after AWP in Washington, DC, which is a few weeks after Inauguration Day. In the face of feeling helpless and powerless, putting our words into the world to support each other is our best way of moving forward.

Please share this call widely with your colleagues and students.

Writers: We have work to do.

Assay, the New Journal of Nonfiction Studies

September 1, 2014 § 3 Comments

0013_1900_BeachTWC_650x366We were barely unpacked from our summer vacation in Southampton, consumed with reopening Brevity submissions and screaming at the new interns to take their feet off the mahogany desks in our recently-renovated corporate towers, when we received notice of the first issue of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

We plan to read the entire issue once we’ve unpacked all the seashells and surplus cases of champagne, but we did dive into Ned Stuckey-French’s brilliant essay on the essay, “Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing.” Not only is Ned an absolutely essential resource on the tradition of nonfiction and the essay going all the way back to that peculiar French guy wrote about his own body odor, he also just saved us about an hour the next time we teach a workshop and someone asks, “Can you define those terms?”  Here’s an excerpt followed by a link to the full and amazing and thoroughly fascinating essay:

The personal essay arrived almost two millennia after Aristotle wrote the Poetics, and after several centuries of perhaps too much universality and church doctrine, too many answered questions, too much deferral of particularity and the self, and too little democracy. As a consequence, Montaigne flipped Aristotle’s assertion, arguing instead, “Chaque homme porte la form entire de l’humaine condition,” or “Each man [or person] carries [or bears] the entire form [or impress, or stamp] of the human condition.” For Montaigne, history isn’t less than poetry, because history carries the universal within it. Any living individual can represent the whole of humanity, the possibilities within each of us. Montaigne did not apologize for himself and his new approach, but laid down a challenge instead: “If the world find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not so much as think of themselves.”

The essay sits somewhere between an edited, organized, largely voiceless, researched, fact-based, history-based article and a narrated, made-up, speculative, climactic, imaginary story. It offers a third way, another way to find everyone’s story in one person’s story. The personal essay differs from the inverted checkmark story in that it doesn’t tell (or just tell) the story of an event. Instead it lets you into what a particular person thinks about an event…or a subject, person, place or problem. It offers – or essays – an answer to a question, a question such as “What is an essay?” As a consequence, an essay is more digressive and meandering than a story. It may be a story, says Hoagland, but it is the story of a mind thinking.

Read “Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing” at Assay.

 

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with nonfiction scholarship at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

%d bloggers like this: