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Traversing the Democratic Borders of the Essay

Cristina Kirklighter, Gail Y. Okawa

Publication Year: 2002

Scholarship on the personal essay has focused on Western European and U. S. varieties of the form. In Traversing the Democratic Borders of the Essay, Cristina Kirklighter extends these boundaries by reading the Latin American and Latino/a essayists Paulo Freire, Victor Villanueva, and Ruth Behar, alongside such canonical figures as Montaigne, Bacon, Emerson, and Thoreau. In this fascinating journey into the commonalities and differences among these essayists, Kirklighter focuses on various elements of the personal essay—self-reflexivity, accessibility, spontaneity, and a rhetoric of sincerity—in order to argue for a more democratic form of writing in academia, one that would democratize the academy and promote nation-building. By using these elements in their teachings and writings, Kirklighter argues, educators can play a significant role in helping others who experience academic alienation achieve a better sense of belonging as they slowly dismantle the walls of the ivory tower.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

I’ve told this story before. It was a profound moment in an already long teaching career. I had heard Paulo Freire’s name for the first time at a CCCC convention in the mid-eighties, and was tantalized by the discussion of his ideas. That summer I was fortunate enough to participate...

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pp. xi-xii

Many of the inspirations for writing about the personal essay are numerous and cannot be contained in a few pages. I can only highlight some of the more important influences that shaped this book. My loving and caring parents who taught me the meaning of humility and...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-14

In the last decade, some Composition scholars like Joel Haefner, John Trimbur, Douglas Hesse, Thomas O’Donnell, and Paul Heilker have critiqued the textual and institutional practices of the essay. For example, Joel Haefner contends that essay scholarship reinforces institutional and patriarchal hierarchies by privileging essayists from elite Western European...

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2 The Personal, the Political, and the Rhetorical: Montaigne and Bacon’s Use of the Essay Form

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pp. 15-38

In recent years, academia has witnessed a push to include nontraditional works in the canon. Many critics argue that ethnic writers are underrepresented in mainstream studies and that they need a canon that reflects our cultural diversity. Autobiography, as a genre that fosters...

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3 Essaying an American Democratic Identity in Emerson and Thoreau

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pp. 39-70

As Renaissance essayists, Montaigne and Bacon used an essay form that addressed the political, religious, and scientific upheavals of their day. These essayists sought an antisystematic form that served to explore previously held accepted truths. Through his personal form of writing...

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4 The Essay as Political/Cultural Critique in Latin America

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pp. 71-102

Like Emerson and Thoreau, many Latin American essayists viewed the essay as a means for communicating their thoughts on nation building. Both Latin Americans and U.S. writers, as nation builders in search of improving their countries’ societal conditions, became less consumed with the aesthetic qualities of the essay form and more concerned...

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5 Achieving a Place in Academia through the Personal Academic Essays of Victor Villanueva and Ruth Behar

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pp. 103-132

As discussed in the last chapter, Paulo Freire succeeded through his personal and theoretical writings to close the distance between Latin American and U.S. scholars. By interweaving his life experiences into his writing with what he read in the scholarly world, he educated both academics and nonacademics about his Latin American...

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6 Conclusion

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pp. 133-136

From what I discovered in my research, essay scholars in the humanities primarily focus on traditional Western European and U.S. essayists. The purpose of this book is to show what is lost in essay scholarship (especially for U.S. scholars) when Latin American and Latino/a’s ways...


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pp. 137-148


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pp. 149-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488119
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791454671
Print-ISBN-10: 0791454673

Page Count: 172
Publication Year: 2002