In Upon This Rock, John Jeremiah Sullivan confesses his own religious background partway through an ostensibly journalistic account of a Christian rock concert. In my own essay, The Empathy Exams, I tell several personal storiesan abortion, a failed heart surgeryinside a broader inquiry into the terms of empathy itself: What does it consist of? Both ranges are endless, but they map different terrains. Im interested in essays that follow the infinitude of a private life toward the infinitude of public experience. Im wary of seeking this resonance by extracting some easy moral from the grit and ication of personal particularity: love hurts, time heals, always look on the bright side. This is one of the central imperatives of bining personal material with history or criticism or reportage: each must do some work that isnt being done by another; that cant be done by another.
Thats the thrill of pushing the personal essay beyond itself: refuting argument persuasive essay the electricity created between erudition and flesh is something fierce. You can move from the rigors of scientific inquiry to the pale vulnerability of an IV citing essay piercing a vein.
She makes links but she personal refuses to flatten these links into an easy moral; she wants them to remain provocative but senseless. Eula Biss positions a personal account of her own Chicago neighborhood inside several larger contexts: the history of the American frontier and publishing the troubled racial politics of urban spaces. In No Mans Land, you do the work of connecting that terrible privacy to everything beyond it. There is so much outside personal the false cloister of private experience; and when you write, i quot; scientific studies and an eighteenth century moral philosopher; I dont offer them as intellectual accessories so much as I deoy them as tools: how can these other sources of light illuminate my own story better?