Conference aims to revive interest in the essay

An international line-up of academics and literary aficionados will attempt to breathe new life into the essay at a conference hosted by the University of Dundee.

Teachers, writers, artists, publishers and journalists from around the world will join secondary school pupils and members of the public for ‘Taking Ideas for a Walk: The 2018 Essay Conference’, aimed at revitalising interest in the form.

Beginning on Tuesday 19 June, delegates will gather at Hospitalfield House in Arbroath for the two-day event, hosted by Professor Kirsty Gunn and Dr Gail Low of the University’s English department.

Gail, an English and Creative Writing lecturer, said that the world of academia was partly to blame for the modern perception of the essay.

“Many people think of essays as bland and constrictive pieces of writing that simply deliver information, when nothing could be further from the truth.

“Essays can be expansive, but many people simply associate them with educational instruction and feel as though they have to write to some sort of identikit template.

“This can be a huge deterrent. We need to make people realise that essays can be expressive, creative and artful. The journalistic essay is still alive and well, but elsewhere it is dressed in the faded robes of a school room.

“This conference is an opportunity for us to think about the essay's capabilities and how it might reach beyond the classroom.”

Among the international cast of guest speakers are Philip Lopate, from Columbia University in New York, Irish award-winning essayist Chris Arthur, and Professor Dan Gunn from the American University in Paris.

Members of the public are also welcome to watch the conference with tickets available for purchase online.