The Art of the Personal Essay - An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present - selected and with an introduction by Phillip Lopate
This book is a masterpiece in itself - it is a huge thick book spanning 777 pages - the introduction alone is comprehensive and breaks down the elements of a personal essay - The Conversational Element; Honesty, Confession and Privacy; The Contractions and Expansions of the Self; The Role of Contrariety; The Problem of Egotism; Cheek and Irony; The Idler Figure; The Past, the Local, and the Melancholy; Questions of Form and Style; Quotation and the Uses of Learning; The Personal Essay as Mode of Thinking and Being.
I discovered that for more than 400 years the personal essay has been one of the richest and most vibrant of all literary forms and this anthology celebrates this lively genre. The Art of the Personal Essay includes 75 essays, beginning with influential forerunners from ancient Rome (Seneca, Plutarch) and the Far East to the mastering of the form by its sixteenth-century founder, Michel de Montaigne; through the golden age of the English essay (from Addison & Steele and Samuel Johnson through Orwell and Woolf) to its variegated outcroppings in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and its efforescence in the US.
Since reading this excellent resource, I have written a few personal essays - the freedom of the genre makes this my favourite way of expressing myself as well as writing poetry.