Beyond Literary Landscapes—The Literary Essay

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column focuses on a popular, but lesser discussed, sub-genre of non-fiction, namely the literary essay.

The literary essay can be defined as “a writer’s written work of how they understand how literature mirrors a limited part of how our world works.”

Literary essays are available on a variety of topics from a wide range of notable authors.  As an introduction to the genre, this column will focus on several well-known historical and contemporary essayists and novelists, namely James Baldwin, Albert Camus, and Roxane Gay.


Notable examples of literary essays include Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin, The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.


These essays are set in a variety of geographical locations, including the United States and France.


These works take place in the not too distant past, as well as in contemporary times.


Literary essays may appeal to all types of AU students, as these works consider a variety of diverse topics.  In particular, the abovementioned literary essays consider assorted themes, such as philosophical concerns, feminism, and race.  These works may also be of interest to AU students who would like to improve their essay writing skills.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the literary essay are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 255: Introductory Composition, a junior-level, three-credit course, which “focuses on essay writing at the university level.  To improve the necessary skills, students study examples of good writing, do a brief introductory assignment, write a short summary, develop an annotated bibliography, and complete three essays covering different styles and purposes.”  (Although no prerequisites are required, students who have not had formal writing experience are encouraged to enroll in ENGL 155, ENGL 177, or ENGL 187).  Happy reading!