This advanced course in literary nonfiction focuses on the many forms and styles of the personal essay and hybrid form. From Montaigne to the present day, essayists explore the human heart and mind and cover a wide range of topics from the ordinary to the extraordinary, the profane to the sublime. Most of all, however, the essayist invites the reader to engage in a conversation that examines and debates the most meaningful aspects of human identity and human existence, often from a very personal point of view. How do we define the lyric essay? How does that compare to a narrative, speculative, rhetorical, or reflective approach? In this course we’ll discuss the essay as conversation, as argument, as reflection, and as contemplation, and discover why the personal essay is an enduring and essential part of contemporary literature and culture. We’ll focus on reading two essays per week and students will write a one-page detailed response, with a final personal essay (8-10 pages) due at the end of the semester.