Cover

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pp. 1-1

Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. 8-9

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

This book grew out of a love of the personal essay and a desire to figure out why middle-class Americans like to read magazines that contain essays. I grew up middle class myself (or more specifically, white, ...

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Introduction: Defending the Essay

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pp. 1-13

The dates and titles tell the tale—“The Passing of the Essay” (1894), “The Survival of the Essay” (1897), “The Prosperity of the Essay” (1905), “Once and for All” (1929), “A Disappearing Art” (1932), “A ...

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1. The Genteel Essay and the Gentleman at the Fireside

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pp. 14-40

The Genteel Tradition had been waiting for someone to name it, but by the time George Santayana did, it was already in decline. It had to be, for when a culture is hegemonic and fully naturalized, it is everywhere and, therefore, hard to see. But when ...

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2. The “Death” of the Essay

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pp. 41-52

For most of the nineteenth century the genteel essay featuring a learned gentleman digressing amiably at a fireside was read by a relatively small, well-educated group of people, usually after dinner by lamp-light at a parlor fireside. Reading ...

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3. The Essay in the Progressive Era

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pp. 53-101

The world of the late Victorians produced the mix of whimsy, quiet reflection, and good manners associated with the genteel essay, but that world was never as ordered and sedate as it sometimes seemed to be. Certainly, by the turn of the century, ...

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4. New York, New York: The Arrival of the Colyumnists

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pp. 102-137

The carnage and dislocations of the First World War shook, and perhaps ended, the Progressive dream of a country being led forward by trained and rational experts. At the same time, the ...

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5. Starting Out at the New Yorker

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pp. 138-166

Born in 1899, E. B. White was the youngest of Samuel and Jessie White’s six children by five years. He grew up in the family’s big Queen Anne house at 101 Summit Avenue in Mt. Vernon, New York, America’s first ...

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6. Leaving the New Yorker

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pp. 167-190

Though capitalism was more resilient than Macdonald thought, 1937 did find it in crisis. The year opened with the Flint sit-down strike, which was followed by waves of strike activity in both auto and steel. The United Auto Workers, ...

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Epilogue: “Once More to the Lake,” History, and Freshman Composition

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pp. 191-200

Though he had passed away fifteen years earlier, E. B. White played an important role in the 2000 New York senatorial campaign. That year Hillary Clinton, in a candidates’ debate with Rick Lazio, sought to dispel accusations of carpetbagging ...

Notes

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pp. 201-224

Bibliography

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pp. 225-246

Index

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pp. 247-256