Response to Lopate’s “The Art of the Personal Essay”

Phillip Lopate’s introduction to “The Art of the Personal Essay” outlines several key facets of this intimate mode of expression. I found the “Honesty, Confession, and Privacy” section to be particularly interesting. These three pillars of the personal essay are what writers strive to incorporate in their works, yet Lopate mentions humans as being innately programmed to deceive. Lopate views humans as “self-deceiving, rationalizing animals”. In order to extract the purest truth from our experiences and translate them into words; we must “remove the mask”, according to Montaigne. This feat can only be achieved if the writer is honest and open with their downfalls and limitations. Another interesting aspect of Lopate’s writing is that honesty and confession can still be balanced with privacy. For example, essayist Max Beerbohm incorporates all three of these elements: letting the reader experience the intricacies of his world, yet still maintaining private details of his life a secret. I feel that if I can balance these three elements, I will be able to produce a humble and true personal essay.

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