Every couple of years I (Joey) teach a course on the history of the personal essay, and for the final project of the semester, after my students and I have completed our survey of the essay canon, I ask them to consider everything they've learned about this meandering, reflective, self-deprecating, discursive, protean genre, and imagine what might happen if the tools of the essay were applied to other forms of discourse. How might an emphasis on authenticity change a dating profile or social media post, for instance? What could the essayist's critical eye on culture bring to political speech or pop music? Might the pulpit benefit from a little contrarian skepticism? Online comments from a bit of conciliatory humility? What if reality TV had a little less “true confession” and a little more sincere confiding? This project invites my students to apply Alexander Smith's theory that “the world is everywhere...

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