Chair: Paul Martin
Panel members: Briony Schroor and Peter Rose
Montaigne, in the sixteenth century, invented the word, ‘essai’ as a literary term and wrote in order to test his response to different subjects and situations. His essays reveal a ‘modest, truthful humorous and objective person, clear sighted, unprejudiced and a great conversationalist’ ( J.M. Cohen). Geordie Williamson, in his introduction to The Best Australian Essays 2015, says the essays he likes best ‘are those which swerve across the mid-point of the author’s argument like a drunken driver over broken white lines, climb their ideas like a fakir up a magic rope, roll delirious inside their own thoughts, pitch and yaw: You know what I mean.’
This panel explored what teachers and students expect of the essay, indeed writing itself, in an era in which anyone with a Facebook page or Tumblr blog can and does write about those issues which move them. Teaching students to be ‘authentic’ in their ‘essay’ writing is an urgent matter for classroom teachers.
The essay—beyond the formula
Briony Schroor is the Leader of the the English Domain at Nossal High School, an academically selective high school. She has a PhD in feminist theory and classical Greek literature. She has taught English and Literature in both Australia and England for the past eighteen years. She says she is always interested in what students have to say but is increasingly concerned about the formulaic ways in which they are encouraged to say it. Briony can be contacted at: Briony.Schroor@nossalhs.vic.edu.auLog in to view this article.