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Book Celebration: The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay

General Programming

dateMarch 29, 2023 timeWednesday, 5:00pm–7:00pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Dean of Humanities
  • Undergraduate Writing Program
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Cover of The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay, edited by Mario Aquilina, Bob Cowser Jr., and Nicole B. Wallack

The fortunes and status of the essay have been in continual flux since the genre’s beginnings in the 16th century. The 21st century, however, has marked a new time of appreciation for the genre’s formal and conceptual adaptability as well as its timeliness. At a moment when artists, scholars, and educators are responding to novel challenges posed by the text-generating capacity of artificial intelligence, essays dramatize the value of human presence and authorship. The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay (Edinburgh University Press, 2022) joins a burgeoning international conversation about the genre. This collection explores the essay from multiple perspectives: its theories, forms, and histories, as well as its cultural, political, and pedagogical significance.

Please join the editors of The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay, Mario Aquilina (The University of Malta), Bob Cowser, Jr. (St. Lawrence University), and Nicole B. Wallack (English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University) for a roundtable followed by informal conversation and refreshments with Columbia University contributors to the volume


Mario Aquilina is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Malta. He is the author of The Event of Style in Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), editor of The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay with Nicole B. Wallack and Bob Cowser Jr. (Edinburgh University Press, 2022), and the editor of The Essay at the Limits: Poetics Politics and Form (Bloomsbury, 2021). He has also published journal articles and book chapters on literature and literary theory, with the essay, style, rhetoric, electronic literature and Shakespeare being primary areas of focus in his work.

Bob Cowser, Jr. is Professor of English at St. Lawrence University. He is the co-editor for The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay (2022). He is the author of Green Fields: Crime, Punishment, and a Boyhood Between (2010), Scorekeeping: Essays from Home (2010) and Dream Season (2004), and the editor of Why We’re Here: New York Essayists on Living Upstate (2010). He is advisory editor to the online journal Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and his essays and reviews have appeared widely in American literary magazines. He has taught in France, England, and Denmark.

Glenn Michael Gordon is assistant director of the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University and Editor-in-Chief of The Morningside Review. His most recent essay for Pedagogy, “How to Teach Gender to Students Who Didn’t Know They Had One” (2019), addresses the challenges and opportunities around teaching self-proclaimed “straight men” about gender and sexuality in first-year writing classes. Previously, he worked as an editor and writer for a variety of popular periodicals.

Leslie Jamison is Associate Professor in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts. She is the New York Times bestselling author of four books: two essay collections, Make It Scream, Make It Burn and The Empathy Exams, as well as The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, and a novel, The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award. The Recovering was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 by Entertainment Weekly and the best-reviewed memoir of 2018 by LitHub, and was a finalist for the American Booksellers Association Book Award. Both Make It Scream, Make It Burn and The Empathy Exams were finalists for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

Phillip Lopate is Professor of Writing in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts. He has championed the essay in the various anthologies he has edited: The Art of the Personal Essay (1995), The Glorious American Essay (2020), The Golden Age of the American Essay (2021), The Contemporary American Essay (2021); and his own essay collections, Bachelorhood (1981), Against Joie de Vivre (1989), Portrait of My Body (1996), and Portrait Inside My Head (2013). In 2022, he received the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters to recognize his contributions to American literature.

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at at Columbia University. He is the author of Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (1993), Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence (2012), The Beneficiary (2017) and most recently, Criticism and Politics: A Polemical Introduction (2023). His works are mainly in the areas of nineteenth and twentieth-century fiction, literary and cultural theory, and postcolonial studies.

Alan Stewart is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of several books, including most recently The Oxford History of Life-Writing, volume 2, Early Modern (2018). He is the Director of the Oxford Francis Bacon, for which he edited volume 1, Bacon’s Early Writings 1584-1596 (2012); he is currently working on volume 2, Late Elizabethan Writings 1596-1602.

Nicole B. Wallack is Senior Lecturer-in-Discipline in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and Director of the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University. She is also Senior Associate Faculty at the Institute of Writing and Thinking at Bard College. She is the author of Crafting Presence: The American Essay and the Future of Writing Studies (2017) and the co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay. She writes and teaches on essay studies, writing and reading pedagogy and educational history.