Sunday, May 23, 2010

Essay. Yesterday I was reading the paper and came across a bowdlerised version of this article (Age subs had cut out all the personal anecdotes to make it seem more like a news story). It was about the legendary difficulty of the entrance exam process for fellowship of All Souls, the elite and extremely wealthy graduate college at Oxford.

However, the round of six exams over three days is a little easier now, because the college has scrapped the most legendary exam, known as "Essay". You turn over your exam paper and on it is a single word. You then spend three hours writing about that word. (I wonder if this, or exams like it, may have been the origin of the urban myth about the exam on "courage".)

Previous words have included Bias, Style, Chaos, Mercy, Innocence, Novelty, Miracles, Integrity, Morality, Possessions and Water.

I got tremendously excited when I read this. I would love to do this exam. What an intellectual challenge it would be: combining an original and lateral interpretation of the word with rhetorical skills, organisation of ideas and a broad command of examples.

Since I'm always keen to a) overthink things; b) put things on the internet, I also thought of a blog where I could do the Essay and post my efforts. It could also be a group blog, in which case it would be interesting to see different ways of tackling the topics.

But what if my Essays were lame and poorly argued? And, really, who would be bothered reading long, esoteric essays? Is it arrogant and self-indulgent to want to write them? Perhaps All Souls were right to scrap Essay.

I think it would make for fascinating reading, Mel. Go forth and blog, I say.
I hear that Toastmasters do this. They give you a subject ('furniture', say, or 'envy') and you have to improvise, on the spot, a speech on that subject.
Most of the subjects in this Jerome K Jerome book of essays are single words (on Friendship, on Love, etc) Probably a common approach to essay writing - when essay writing was common.
I would love to read your Essay.

I would be so crap at this sort of thing. I'd end up with about 100 words, all of them lame.
"who would be bothered reading long, esoteric essays? "

[Mr Miyagi voice] "... funny you should ask."

Me - i just wrote an Essay For No-one about whimsy, why i hate it's dominance across popular culture at the moment, and why Web 2.0 is to blame.

Publish and be damned! I'll read ya. ps. hair looks great, Melk.
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