EDEN 539: The Contemporary American Essay

EDEN 539: The Contemporary American Essay

A Guided Independent Study - Open Enrollment

Stephen York, Instructor

Course Description:                                                                     4.5 CEUs

The essay is considered through the lens of classical and contemporary American writers. Through extensive reading and reflection, students will understand the various elements of the American essay and historical perspectives of the genre.  They will learn how to read and write about essays, experience critical approaches to the genre, and master literary terms and concepts.  The study also considers authors’ lives and the socio-cultural-political influences on their work.  Participants may explore ways of connecting American essayists to students in their classrooms.  It may also be taken to satisfy an English content area requirement for teacher certification.

Course Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify authors of contemporary American essays.
  • Articulate the connections between the American essay, geography of place, and community building.
  • Connect the socio-cultural-political influences on the lives and work of notable American essayists.
  • Demonstrate a mastery of literary terms and concepts.


  • Course Textbooks:  
  • Tracing the Essay Through Experience to Truth, Atkins, G. Douglas. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 2005.
  • Reading Essays, An Invitation, Atkins, G. Douglas, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 2008.
  • Additional Essays to be chosen by students.