‘The Essay’ Conference

This event has already taken place.

Host: The Royal College of Art
Location: Battersea Campus, Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Dyson Building, 1 Hester Road, London SW11 4AN
Speaker: Wayne Koestenbaum

The Royal College of Art's Critical Writing in Art & Design programme will host a conference, 'The Essay’, in May, with cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum as keynote speaker. Academics and non-academics will generate critical and creative discourse around the ways that language, context, study, methodology, and the essay form, are undergoing re-evaluation and redefinition across disciplines.

Not for the first time, there has been a recent and widespread resurgence of interest in the essay. What accounts for this supposed renaissance? A hazy cluster of definitions surrounds the form: the essay as attempt or trial; the essay as a weighing, an 'examen'; the essay as open, as hybrid, as experimental. The only stable definition of the essay, in fact, lies in its lack of definition. As William Gass writes, ‘it is the mind in the marvels and miseries of its makings, in the work of the imagination, the search for form.’

Alongside its written form, the essay film / film essay, the photo essay, the radio essay, and – that ever unwieldy terrain – the digital essay, have all emerged as contemporary sites of interest. This conference is aimed at generating a critical and creative discourse around the variety of ways in which the language, context, study, methodology, and – perhaps most crucially – the practice of the essay form is undergoing re-evaluation and redefinition; both within and across disciplines.

'The Essay' is organised by Emily LaBarge, and the Critical Writing in Art & Design faculty – Brian Dillon, Jeremy Millar, Nina Power and David Crowley.

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