Essay Two (e2)

Writing as an Intellectual

Intellectuals are people whose own creativity is sparked by the work of others, who are moved to write in response to what they read and watch and listen to. They are people who are passionate about ideas, who want to talk with others about books, music, politics, art, and culture.

I’d like you to finish this course by writing an essay that expresses your voice as an intellectual. And since this is a course in critical writing, I want you to write that essay in response to a text that you find especially interesting.

By text I mean an artifact that has been crafted to convey meaning. A text is something that you can quote directly and your readers can access independently. A book is a text, but so is a movie, a song, a photo, a drawing, an advertisement, a video, a letter, a website, an email, a tweet, and so on. The text you write about can be in any medium: print, digital, video, audio, graphic, architectural, sculptural, etc. You can even write about a performance or event—so long as it has been “textualized” or recorded in some way. What’s essential, though, is that you choose a text that grabs your attention as a reader, that prompts interesting thinking and writing on your part.

Because what this essay should really center on is your mind at work. We read a good essay for the perspective that an author brings to her topic, for the pleasure of listening to her voice as a writer. We read, that is, as much for the writer as for the subject. In writing this essay, you thus have two main challenges: To say something of interest about a text that engages you, and to say in it a voice that feels distinctively your own.

But there is still another challenge. For intellectuals not only write about texts, they also work with them—borrow and reuse the ideas and phrasings of other writers. So I will also expect you to find at least two or three other writers who have discussed the text you are writing about, and to draw on their work in your essay. You’ll thus need to identify both a primary text that you want to write about, and several secondary texts that you want to work with—to mine for ideas, methods, and insights.

Think in terms of a mid-length essay—somewhere around 2,000 words. The style of your piece should express your aims in writing it. I’ll ask you to spend most of the second half of this course at work on this essay, taking it through several drafts and revisions. (See the deadlines below.) My expectations for your work will thus be high—both in terms of what you have to say and how you go about saying it. Good luck! I look forward to reading your work.


  1. Mon, 4/13: Proposal
  2. Mon, 4/20: Draft One
  3. Thurs, 4/23, class: Workshop
  4. Mon, 4/27: Revision plan (w5)
  5. Mon, 5/04: Draft Two
  6. Tues, 5/05, or Wed, 5/06: Conference
  7. Mon, 5/11: Final (e2d3)
  8. Tues, 5/12, or Thurs, 5/14: Presentation

UD | Spring 2015 | #060 Tues/Thurs, 12:30-1:45 Purnell 329