The Personal Essay: Lopate

I found this introduction to the personal essay to be both informative and interesting. It helped to better illustrate what a personal essay is, what it consists of, and how it differs from that of academic or formal writing.

Of the personal essay qualities discussed in the reading, the concept of egotism (or lack thereof), stood out to me the most. Lopate begins by emphasizing the importance of “I” in the pesonal essay, which is a key component to it’s transcendence from formal writing. However, there must be a balance between the use of “I” and accidentally pervading an overzealous sense of egotism. The ideal personal essayist must have the ability to write about themselves without creating this unwanted feel of self-righteousness. As described by Alexander Smith in the writing, simply put, the essayist must make themselves worth knowing by writing about who and what they are, as opposed to what they have. In other words, it is important to draw the line between being charm and boastfulness. I admired Lopate’s solution in tying these concepts together by stating that it is important for the essayist to realize that they are unimportant, except in creating human traits in order to make the reader more comfortable.



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1 Response to The Personal Essay: Lopate

  1. klucenko says:

    Thanks, Chuck. I think your post raises the important idea of significance, which can be somewhat anxiety-producing. What makes our story important? Why would others want to read it? It’s not enough that something happened, and that we want to share it; we have to make sense of it for ourselves and our readers. As you note, the writer should be worth knowing. But one’s story can be deceptively “simple” (such as describing a trip to the zoo, or a hobby like gardening or playing basketball). In fact, it’s often in these ordinary events and experience that we find surprising meaning.

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