“I was recently reading in Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick Finn about the history of essay and how one of the big influences was London Corresponding Societies in the late 1700s. They would meet at a tavern and it would be all classes and walks of life debating an issue. And so they would, you know, yell and have an argument and someone would write it all down. The idea is that you explicitly have all the arguments considered and you can make like a paper and then send it to another corresponding society and they would debate that paper. So you have a discourse community there, and everything is explicit–that way you have all arguments considered. And I think that’s kind of the influence of the essay now as you consider everything: that way the reader can take it and then reconsider something else. Yeah, with creative writing, in a way, you leave a little more room for the reader to be in the tavern arguing so to speak.”
Ryan McDonald is 3rd year creative nonfiction MFA student.