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The Lost Origins of the Essay

by

The Lost Origins of the Essay Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Every history is a story, a marshaling of evidence to support a particular reading of the past. Of the Silk Road or Nordic myth. Of Alexandria or pirates or the atom bomb. John D'Agata's history is of the essay, that redheaded stepchild of literature which, he laments, is often mistaken for 'a genre that is merely a dispensary of data — not a true expression of one's dreams, ideas, or fears.'" Meehan Crist, The Believer (read the entire Believer review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An expansive and exhilarating world tour of innovative nonfiction writing

I think the reason weve never pinpointed the real beginning to this genre is because weve never agreed on what the genre even is. Do we read nonfiction in order to receive information, or do we read it to experience art? Its not very clear sometimes. This, then, is a book that tries to offer a clear objective: I am here in search of art. I am here to track the origins of an alternative to commerce.

John DAgata leaves no tablet unturned in his exploration of the roots of the essay. In this soaring anthology he takes the reader from ancient Mesopotamia to classical Greece and Rome, from fifth-century Japan to nineteenth-century France, to modern Brazil, Germany, Barbados, and beyond. With brief and brilliant introductions to seminal works by Heraclitus, Sei Sho-nagon, Michel de Montaigne, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, Octavio Paz, and more than forty other luminaries, DAgata reexamines the international forebears of todays American nonfiction. This idiosyncratic collection makes a perfect historical companion to DAgatas The Next American Essay, a touchstone among students and practitioners of the lyric essay.

 

John DAgata is the author of Halls of Fame and the editor of The Next American Essay. He teaches in the nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa and is the editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review.

John DAgata leaves no tablet unturned in his exploration of the roots of the essay. In this anthology he takes the reader from ancient Mesopotamia to classical Greece and Rome, from fifth-century Japan to nineteenth-century France, to modern Brazil, Germany, Barbados, and beyond. With brief introductions to seminal works by Heraclitus, Sei Sho-nagon, Michel de Montaigne, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, Octavio Paz, and more than forty other luminaries, DAgata reexamines the international forebears of todays American nonfiction. This idiosyncratic collection makes a perfect historical companion to DAgatas The Next American Essay, a touchstone among students and practitioners of the lyric essay.
"From Ziusudra of Sumer to Antonin Artaud and beyond, the essay in all its glory is on full display in this ingenious anthology. The title doesn't convey the volume's range—the spirit of factual expression, worked on by the imagination, transplanted into many times and in many cultures. This is a book to dip into or read through, certainly to savor for its diversity. The essay tent is wide, and under D'Agata's editorship and astute eye it includes hybrid forms, from William Blake's 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' through the prose poems of Aloysius Bertrand, Baudelaire and Mallarmé to a 'performative essay' on Bob Marley by Kamau Brathwaite. Readers will be familiar with the aphorisms of Francis Bacon, somewhat less familiar with the eccentric virtuosity of Sir Thomas Browne and much more so with Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal.' But readers are perhaps most likely to be turned on for the first time by the prose artistry of Matsuo Basho, the avant-garde musings of Clarice Lispector on the (not-so) simple egg and the obsessive documentary-like musings of Marguerite Duras. Overall, this imaginative international collection showcases the art of short nonfiction at its best."—Publishers Weekly

TABLE OF CONTENTS

To the Reader

Prologue

Ziusudra of Sumer, The List of Ziusudra

1500 B.C.E.: Ennatum of Akkad, Dalogue of Pessimism

500 B.C.E.: Heraclitus of Ephesus, I Have Looked Diligently at My Own Mind

100 B.C.E.: Theophrastus of Eressos, These Are Them

46: Mestrius Plutrach, Some Information about the Spartans

315: Lucius Seneca, Sick

315: Awinaki Tshipala, Questions and Answers

427: Tao Chien, The Biography of Mr. Five-Willows

790: Li Tsung-Yuan, Is There a God?

858: Li Shang-yin, Miscellany

996: Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book

1281: Yoshida Kenko, In all things I yearn for the past

1336: Francesco Petrarch, My Journey Up the Mountain

1499: Bernardino de Sahagun, Definitions of Earthly Things

1580: Michel de Montaigne, On Some Verses of Virgil

1623: Francis Bacon, Antithesis of Things

1658: Thomas Brown, Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial; or, A Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk

1692: Matsuo Basho, Narrow Road to the Interior

1729: Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public

1763: Christopher Smart, My Cat Jeoffry

1790: William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

1849: Thomas De Quincey, The English Mail-Coach

1860: Aloysius Bertrand, Ondine

1869: Charles Baudelaire, Be Drunk

1873: Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

1896: Stéphane Mallarmé, A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance

1907: Velimir Khlebnikov, The I-Singer of Universong

1913: Dino Campana, The Night

1924: Saint-John Perse, Anabasis

1930: Antonin Artaud, Eighteen Seconds

1935: Fernando Pessoa, Metaphysics has always struck me as a prolonged form of latent insanity

1941: Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth

1945: Paul Celan, Conversation in the Mountains

1952: Francis Ponge, The Pebble

1955: Edmond Jabè, Dread of One Single End

1957: Ana Hatherly, Tisanes

1959: Octavio Paz, Before Sleep

1960: Marguerite Yourcenar, Fires

1962: Jorge Luis Borges, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Teritus

1965: Julio Cortázar, The Instruction Manual

1967: Clarice Lispector, The Egg and the Chicken

1968: Michel Butor, Egypt

1969: Natlia Ginzburg, He and I

1970: Kamau Braithwaite, Trench Town Rock

1971: Peter Handke, Suggestions for Running Amok

1972: Marguerite Duras, The Atlantic Man

1973: Samuel Beckett, Afar a Bird

1974: Lisa Robertson, Seven Walks

Epilogue

John Berger, What Reconciles Me

Review:

"From Ziusudra of Sumer to Antonin Artaud and beyond, the essay in all its glory is on full display in this ingenious anthology. The title doesn't convey the volume's range — the spirit of factual expression, worked on by the imagination, transplanted into many times and in many cultures. This is a book to dip into or read through, certainly to savor for its diversity. The essay tent is wide, and under D'Agata's (Halls of Fame) editorship and astute eye it includes hybrid forms, from William Blake's 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' through the prose poems of Aloysius Bertrand, Baudelaire and Mallarm to a 'performative essay' on Bob Marley by Kamau Brathwaite. Readers will be familiar with the aphorisms of Francis Bacon, somewhat less familiar with the eccentric virtuosity of Sir Thomas Browne and much more so with Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal.' But readers are perhaps most likely to be turned on for the first time by the prose artistry of Matsuo Basho, the avant-garde musings of Clarice Lispector on the (not-so) simple egg and the obsessive documentarylike musings of Marguerite Duras. Overall, this imaginative international collection showcases the art of short nonfiction at its best." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

An expansive and exhilarating world tour of innovative nonfiction writing

I think the reason weve never pinpointed the real beginning to this genre is because weve never agreed on what the genre even is. Do we read nonfiction in order to receive information, or do we read it to experience art? Its not very clear sometimes. This, then, is a book that tries to offer a clear objective: I am here in search of art. I am here to track the origins of an alternative to commerce.

John DAgata leaves no tablet unturned in his exploration of the roots of the essay. In this soaring anthology he takes the reader from ancient Mesopotamia to classical Greece and Rome, from fifth-century Japan to nineteenth-century France, to modern Brazil, Germany, Barbados, and beyond. With brief and brilliant introductions to seminal works by Heraclitus, Sei Sho-nagon, Michel de Montaigne, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, Octavio Paz, and more than forty other luminaries, DAgata reexamines the international forebears of todays American nonfiction. This idiosyncratic collection makes a perfect historical companion to DAgatas The Next American Essay, a touchstone among students and practitioners of the lyric essay.

 

About the Author

John DAgata is the author of Halls of Fame and the editor of The Next American Essay. He teaches in the nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa and is the editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781555975326
Author:
D'agata, John
Publisher:
Graywolf Press
Editor:
D'Agata, John
Author:
D'Agata, John
Subject:
Books & Reading
Subject:
Essay
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
656
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » General
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Literature
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Reference » Writing » General

The Lost Origins of the Essay New Trade Paper
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Product details 656 pages Graywolf Press - English 9781555975326 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "From Ziusudra of Sumer to Antonin Artaud and beyond, the essay in all its glory is on full display in this ingenious anthology. The title doesn't convey the volume's range — the spirit of factual expression, worked on by the imagination, transplanted into many times and in many cultures. This is a book to dip into or read through, certainly to savor for its diversity. The essay tent is wide, and under D'Agata's (Halls of Fame) editorship and astute eye it includes hybrid forms, from William Blake's 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' through the prose poems of Aloysius Bertrand, Baudelaire and Mallarm to a 'performative essay' on Bob Marley by Kamau Brathwaite. Readers will be familiar with the aphorisms of Francis Bacon, somewhat less familiar with the eccentric virtuosity of Sir Thomas Browne and much more so with Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal.' But readers are perhaps most likely to be turned on for the first time by the prose artistry of Matsuo Basho, the avant-garde musings of Clarice Lispector on the (not-so) simple egg and the obsessive documentarylike musings of Marguerite Duras. Overall, this imaginative international collection showcases the art of short nonfiction at its best." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Every history is a story, a marshaling of evidence to support a particular reading of the past. Of the Silk Road or Nordic myth. Of Alexandria or pirates or the atom bomb. John D'Agata's history is of the essay, that redheaded stepchild of literature which, he laments, is often mistaken for 'a genre that is merely a dispensary of data — not a true expression of one's dreams, ideas, or fears.'" (read the entire Believer review)
"Synopsis" by ,

An expansive and exhilarating world tour of innovative nonfiction writing

I think the reason weve never pinpointed the real beginning to this genre is because weve never agreed on what the genre even is. Do we read nonfiction in order to receive information, or do we read it to experience art? Its not very clear sometimes. This, then, is a book that tries to offer a clear objective: I am here in search of art. I am here to track the origins of an alternative to commerce.

John DAgata leaves no tablet unturned in his exploration of the roots of the essay. In this soaring anthology he takes the reader from ancient Mesopotamia to classical Greece and Rome, from fifth-century Japan to nineteenth-century France, to modern Brazil, Germany, Barbados, and beyond. With brief and brilliant introductions to seminal works by Heraclitus, Sei Sho-nagon, Michel de Montaigne, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, Octavio Paz, and more than forty other luminaries, DAgata reexamines the international forebears of todays American nonfiction. This idiosyncratic collection makes a perfect historical companion to DAgatas The Next American Essay, a touchstone among students and practitioners of the lyric essay.

 

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