Course Catalog

The Art of the Essay

All Levels. What distinguishes an essay from a memoir or other work of nonfiction? What formal methods do essayists have at their disposal? Whether you’re a seasoned essayist or simply trying to get a basic handle on the craft, this class will give you a thorough introduction to the genre through guided readings of some of its most loved incarnations. Weekly readings will include James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Joan Didion, Audre Lorde, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, and many others.


Week 1 – Truth in a Post-Factual Age

On Truth and Lies in an Extra-moral Sense,” Friedrich Nietzsche
The Decay of Lying—An Observation,” Oscar Wilde
On Not Knowing Greek,” Virginia Woolf

Week 2 – Global Tribalism, Social Injustice

We Refugees,” Hannah Arendt
The Anger of the Damned,” Orhan Pamuk
A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift
“Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Judith Butler (in Precarious Life)
optional: Butler interview on Black Lives Matter

Week 3 – Black Lives Speaking

Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind,” James Baldwin
Eulogy for Nigger,” David Bradley
The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” Audre Lorde
Exchange with a racist Twitter troll on Martin Luther King Day, January 19, 2015, Ijeoma Oluo

Week 4 – Manifestos: The Rhetoric of Proclamation

The Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
First Manifesto for Surrealism,” Andre Breton
The Privileges,” Stendhal
A Cyborg Manifesto,” Donna Haraway
The SCUM Manifesto,” Valerie Solanas

Week 5 – Meditations

An Account of My Hut,” Kamo no Chōmei
Walking,” Henry David Thoreau
Holy Water,” Joan Didion
Junkspace,” Rem Koolhaas

Week 6 – Food for Thought

A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig,” Charles Lamb
“How to Boil Water,” MFK Fisher (from How to Cook a Wolf)
“Steak and Chips,” Roland Barthes (from Mythologies)
With or Without a Lake of Melted Cheese,” Bethany Jean Clement

Beginning Fall 2021, we will be adding select in-person classes back to our course catalog. The majority of our classes will still be offered via Zoom.

If a class says IN-PERSON in its title, it will take place in person at our permanent home in Seattle.

If a class says ASYNCHRONOUS in its title, it will take place on Wet Ink, our asynchronous learning platform.

If a class does not have a marker after its title, it will take place via Zoom.

Instructor: Jeff Encke

Class Type: 6 Sessions

Start Date: 03/04/2017

End Date: 04/08/2017

Days of the Week: Saturday

Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm PST

Minimum Class Size: 5

Maximum Class Size: 15

$265.50 Member Price:
Become a member >

$295.00 General Price:

Class has begun, registration is closed.

Jeff Encke

Jeff Encke taught writing and criticism at Columbia University for several years, serving as writer-in-residence for the Program in Narrative Medicine while completing his PhD in English. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Black Warrior Review, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review Online, and Salt Hill. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, a series of love poems addressed to Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi war criminals printed on a deck of playing cards.

See current classes >