Personal Essay

In Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, David Shields emphasizes two main points: people in our cultural crave “reality” (although what that reality is is debatable) and non-fiction is the most vital, relevant and important form of contemporary writing. He argues, through the voices of others with whom he agrees, that the personal essay, lyric essay and memoir are the most provocative genres in nonfiction.

The lyric essay uses techniques found in fiction to describe, explore and convey our understanding (or even non-understanding) of experience. The memoir, unlike what we usually find in an autobiography, doesn’t aim to provide a definitive, chronological account of a life but instead works to convey maybe only one stage of a life in a way that relies less on facts and more on what the stage meant for the writer or has come to mean for the writer. The term “personal essay” is more inclusive and can refer to any nonfiction that explores personal, rather than public, experiences. In all cases, the “I” who is speaking represents the actual writer.

For your personal essays, you are asked to write about an experience that was and remains significant to you and to try to convey that significance to your reader. You won’t want to provide every single detail of the experience; instead, you will select what “facts” to include and try to describe them in ways that convey what the experience meant to you.

You do not have to arrange the “facts” in chronological order and you can use techniques of story-telling, such as evocative imagery and description, metonymy, dialogue, inclusion of non-standard English, integration of other “voices” (from music, novels, poems, films etc.,), and unconventional formatting (such as changes in font, effective use of white-space between sections, variations on typical paragraphing).

Think of Reality Hunger as a an affirmation of the writer’s right to use techniques usually associated with fiction writing to write of personalexperience. Jo-Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter” offers an example of how a writer can convey the significance of an experience without telling her readers what to think about it. In Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje uses multiple styles of writing to convey his experiences and gives us a great example of what kinds of creative choices can be made when an author writes about “reality”.

This is not a creative writing class and you do not have to use more “experimental”/less-conventional techniques. However, using a variety of sentence structures, rhetorical and emphatic devices, imagery, metaphor, description, and even dialogue, can help you craft an evocative personal essay. The best non-fiction, including academic essays, relies on a conscious use of any writing technique appropriate to the subject and context.

Be sure that you to produce approximately 1200 words-MLA Format. This is a 4th year University major assignment, so please make sure that the language and tone of writing is highly academic and professional. Please do a comprehensive proofreading before uploading the file.

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