This module focuses upon the essay as a critical practice and a literary form. The essay is fundamental to literary criticism, and basic to assessment across your degree. But the essay is also a literary and popular-cultural genre in its own right, a form that marks the invention of the individual and the compulsion to, as Virginia Woolf puts it, ‘write one’s self’. During the course of this module, you will both hone your own skills as literary essayists—writers writing about writing—and weigh up the historical and thematic proportions of the essay as a form. You will explore the eccentricities and paradoxes of essay-writing across history, through ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, from its origins in the sixteenth century to popular journalism and blogs in our own time. In doing so, you will look closely at essayists’ choices of writing style, rhetoric, evidence, and argument—criteria that are fundamental to succeeding in and enjoying our discipline, and to our work as critical readers and individual writers.