Becoming a Great Essayist

Watch Becoming a Great Essayist

  • 2016
  • 1 Season

Becoming a Great Essayist is a comprehensive course that seeks to guide its viewers through the process of creating a successful essay. The course, presented by Jennifer Cognard-Black, covers a wide range of topics aimed at helping people become better at writing essays.

The course is packed with useful information, from the basics of essay structure to more advanced techniques for developing complex arguments. Cognard-Black brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course, having taught writing at various universities for two decades.

Becoming a Great Essayist begins with an overview of the essay form, including its history and development over time. Cognard-Black then delves into the specifics of crafting an effective thesis statement, which she argues is the foundation of any successful essay. From there, she outlines how to develop the body of an essay, with an emphasis on clear, concise writing that engages the reader.

Throughout the course, Cognard-Black provides numerous examples of successful essays and deconstructs them to reveal what makes them work. These examples range from classic essays by Emerson and Thoreau to more contemporary pieces by Annie Dillard and Ta-Nehisi Coates. By studying these essays, viewers can gain a better understanding of what makes an essay successful and how to apply these principles to their own writing.

In addition to providing guidance on the fundamentals of essay writing, the course also covers more advanced techniques, such as using research to bolster arguments, applying narrative techniques to essays, and effectively using figurative language. Cognard-Black also addresses common pitfalls, such as the overuse of jargon, clichés, and repetitive phrasing.

One of the strengths of Becoming a Great Essayist is Cognard-Black's emphasis on the importance of revision. She stresses that writing is a process and that effective revision is essential to producing a successful essay. In fact, a significant portion of the course is devoted to revising and editing techniques, with practical tips for everything from grammar and punctuation to organization and flow.

The course concludes with a discussion of publishing, including practical advice for submitting essays to literary magazines and other publications. Cognard-Black draws on her own experience as an editor to provide insight into what editors are looking for in a submission and how to increase the likelihood of getting published.

Overall, Becoming a Great Essayist is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to improve their essay writing. Jennifer Cognard-Black's engaging teaching style, combined with the wealth of practical advice and examples, make this course a must-watch for anyone looking to become a better writer. Whether you're a student, a professional writer, or simply someone who wants to improve their writing skills, this course has something to offer.

Becoming a Great Essayist is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on November 1, 2016.

Becoming a Great Essayist
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Seasons
Sharing Your Essays: From Blog to Book
24. Sharing Your Essays: From Blog to Book
November 1, 2016
The modern form of the essay may be seen daily in blogs, although not all blogs are essays-instead, many are no more than personal journals, rants, or fantasies without broader connections and appeals. Professor Cognard-Black provides examples of what components are required for a piece to be a fully formed blog essay.
Food Essays: My Grandmother€™s Recipe Box
23. Food Essays: My Grandmother€™s Recipe Box
November 1, 2016
Professor Cognard-Black shows you how a simple recipe is itself a story. Recipes form the basis of edible essays, which start out as instructions and ingredients, but when you mix in personal connections between a dish and your own culinary culture, add a dash of imagery, and stir in the history behind the food, you€™ve extended your recipe into a keepsake-a taste memory.
Nature Essays
22. Nature Essays
November 1, 2016
Since the first nature essays were written in the 19th century, such pieces have often romanticized the natural world-but there is value in not sentimentalizing the great outdoors. Examining works by William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, Deb Marquart, and Michael P. Branch, Professor Cognard-Black explores the various takes on nature that offer a balance between realism and idealism.
Humor Essays
21. Humor Essays
November 1, 2016
One of the most surprising insights into humor essays is the revelation that most humor comes from misfortune. This idea has been around for centuries, as even Aristotle noted that laughing at tragedy is cathartic for both the writer and the audience. You€™ll delve into how self-deprecating humor lends itself to creating ethos or credibility in this particular form of essay.
Historical Essays: Past as Present
20. Historical Essays: Past as Present
November 1, 2016
See how non-artistic proofs are immensely important when crafting a historical essay, especially since history is subjective, and the way you tell the story shapes how it will be understood. The non-artistic proofs of research and data set the scene for a historical essay, which connects personal memory to a larger project of human history.
Polemical Essays: One-Sided Arguments
19. Polemical Essays: One-Sided Arguments
November 1, 2016
Originating in the medieval period, polemical essays are the form for writers who wish to focus on a topic from one perspective only. They are often written to be deliberately polarizing. Refusing to shy away from volatile issues, it takes a strong writer to turn an antagonistic rant into a persuasive, polemical argument.
The Essayist as Public Intellectual
18. The Essayist as Public Intellectual
November 1, 2016
While public intellectual essays don€™t step outside personal reflection, they do grapple with social issues, often myth-busting popular beliefs. This style of writing is distinct from a portrait or lyric essay. Professor Cognard-Black demonstrates this difference through her own examples and those of well-known public intellectuals, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Salman Rushdie.
Portrait Essays: People in Words
17. Portrait Essays: People in Words
November 1, 2016
In this lecture, you€™ll delve into this dynamic between a subject and its writer and examine this power struggle as it plays out in a portrait essay. Using examples from Truman Capote and Scott Russell Sanders, you€™ll see how your own anxieties and prejudices can come through in an essay focused entirely on someone else.
The Epistolary Essay: Letters to the World
16. The Epistolary Essay: Letters to the World
November 1, 2016
Learn how a handwritten letter differs from other forms of direct communication. You€™ll explore the similarities between letters and the epistolary essay as they both speak to a specific audience and convey a strong sense of reality and veracity. Then, you€™ll consider passages from the best-selling book Between the World and Me, which is written as a letter to the author€™s son.
Lyric Essays: Writing That Sings
15. Lyric Essays: Writing That Sings
November 1, 2016
A lyric poem expresses a writer€™s thoughts and feelings through the intimacy of the first-person narrator, evoking a strong emotional reaction in the audience. Professor Cognard-Black demonstrates the similarities between a lyric poem and a lyric essay and shares a moving example of a lyric piece written by one of her own students that synthesizes experience into a kind of mosaic.
The Memoir Essay
14. The Memoir Essay
November 1, 2016
A memoir is often confused with a personal essay, but Professor Cognard-Black shows you the difference, once again using examples from her own students€™ work. She then provides numerous tips to help you recreate your memories and turn them into fascinating pieces of writing.
Short Forms: Microessays and Prose Poems
13. Short Forms: Microessays and Prose Poems
November 1, 2016
Learn how essays can break the rules of conventional writing, allowing you to design essay forms to match your needs rather than being forced to fit the rules of more conventional forms. Examine structures that reimagine the essay, such as the microessay and the prose poem or €œproem.€
Writing Inch by Inch: From Draft to Polish
12. Writing Inch by Inch: From Draft to Polish
November 1, 2016
Professor Cognard-Black guides you through Aristotle€™s process of inventio or invention, which is that period of discovery as you write your first draft. You€™ll examine openings from a number of published works, gaining a powerful toolkit that can help you craft the first sentence of your first draft.
The Visual Essay: Words + Pictures
11. The Visual Essay: Words + Pictures
November 1, 2016
Writing a visual essay requires you to detach yourself from how you have been taught to view images your whole life. Rather than passively observing and judging, you must challenge yourself to get into the visual. Once you start writing, though, the goal is to not recreate the exact image that you saw, but instead to reimagine it-to view it anew.
Essayists as Poets: Tapping into Imagery
10. Essayists as Poets: Tapping into Imagery
November 1, 2016
Using imagery in essays does more than describe and evoke a scene, however. When done well, imagery can transport your reader to a specific time and location. Professor Cognard-Black provides examples of metaphors and sense-based descriptions, which are the most effective ways to employ imagery within essays.
Unabashedly Me: The First-Person Essay
9. Unabashedly Me: The First-Person Essay
November 1, 2016
Learn how to write concisely to avoid an €œI€ story becoming simply an outlet for your own feelings, instead using your emotions to develop a broader appeal that will interest and benefit others. Professor Cognard-Black also reveals how general tricks of the writing trade (for example, €œshow, don€™t tell€) don€™t always apply when writing essays.
When an Essayist's Feelings Face Facts
8. When an Essayist's Feelings Face Facts
November 1, 2016
To help keep your essays from becoming overly sentimental, Professor Cognard-Black discusses pitfalls for writers to avoid. You€™ll be introduced to three examples of what rhetorical theorists call logical fallacies and then take on the challenge of an assignment that brings together emotional appeals with rational ones to achieve credibility, empathy, and candor.
The Empathetic Essayist: Evoking Emotion
7. The Empathetic Essayist: Evoking Emotion
November 1, 2016
Learn how to elicit emotions from your readers while remaining authentic and not manipulative, clich©d, or contrived. Reflect on honest and moving uses of language from Maxine Hong Kingston and Barack Obama, who once perfectly summed up the importance of pathos in a speech by saying, €œEmpathy is a quality of character that can change the world[.]€
The Unreasonable Essayist: Strategic Irony
6. The Unreasonable Essayist: Strategic Irony
November 1, 2016
Professor Cognard-Black explores the world of unreasonable essays, often written for the sake of humor or irony, or to be provocative, such as Jonathan Swift€™s €œA Modest Proposal.€ You€™ll explore an example of an essay that showcases conflicting views yet remains reasonable, and then look at examples where unreasonable writers use pure demagoguery to play on readers€™ emotions.
The Reasonable Essayist: Artistic Proofs
5. The Reasonable Essayist: Artistic Proofs
January 1, 1970
The most important artistic proof in any essay is ethos-the writer’s ethical appeal or credibility. She demonstrates how to effectively use ethos along with logos or rationality to bring reasonableness into your essays, which vital to writing effectively. You’ll examine the work of a pair of writers who mastered the reasonable essay: Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele.
The Skeptical Essayist: Conflicting Views
4. The Skeptical Essayist: Conflicting Views
November 1, 2016
Essays that present conflicting views are not uncommon; Socrates would commonly switch sides in order to test all parts of an argument, and many others have followed his example. Learn how writing essays that provide both sides of an argument can help you to develop an elasticity of mind, expand your essay€™s range of ideas, and add to your ethos or credibility.
Secrets, Confession, and a Writer€™s Voice
3. Secrets, Confession, and a Writer€™s Voice
November 1, 2016
One of the most remarkable consequences of essay writing is the insights you discover about yourself. The essay doesn€™t allow for plot building or outlines-you simply sit and write, which means the story takes its own direction. Professor Cognard-Black encourages this process of discovery and shares stories of how many an essay she started on one topic turned into a different piece in the end.
Memory Maps and Your Essay€™s Direction
2. Memory Maps and Your Essay€™s Direction
November 1, 2016
This lecture focuses on looking at the world around you with a new lens, showing you how to convey those memories you€™ve kept as an experience rather than just a recounting of facts. You€™ll travel down the streets of London with Virginia Woolf to explore her home as a stranger might, learning how taking on a new perspective can translate into compelling essays.
Steal, Adopt, Adapt: Where Essays Begin
1. Steal, Adopt, Adapt: Where Essays Begin
November 1, 2016
First, learn what the essay is and what it is not. See how writing essays has evolved over centuries yet has remained versatile, and examine the many uses of essays across the ages. Numerous essayists find starting out to be the most daunting part of writing. Professor Cognard-Black alleviates these hesitations, using examples from Aristotle to Michel de Montaigne to Edgar Allan Poe.
Description
Where to Watch Becoming a Great Essayist
Becoming a Great Essayist is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Becoming a Great Essayist on demand at Amazon, Kanopy and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    November 1, 2016