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Book Title

The Making of the American Essay

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Edited by John D'Agata
For two decades, essayist John D’Agata has been exploring the contours of the essay through a series of innovative, informative, and expansive anthologies that have become foundational texts in the study of the genre. The breakthrough first volume, The Next American Essay, highlighted major work from 1974 to 2003, while the second, The Lost Origins of the Essay, showcased the essay’s ancient and international forebears. Now, with The Making of the American Essay, D’Agata concludes his monumental tour of this inexhaustible form, with selections ranging from Anne Bradstreet’s secular prayers to Washington Irving’s satires, Emily Dickinson’s love letters to Kenneth Goldsmith’s catalogues, Gertrude Stein’s portraits to James Baldwin’s and Norman Mailer’s meditations on boxing.
Across the anthologies, D’Agata’s introductions to each selection—intimate and brilliantly provocative throughout—serve as an extended treatise, collectively forming the backbone of the trilogy. He uncovers new stories in the American essay’s past, and shows us that some of the most fiercely daring writers in the American literary canon have turned to the essay in order to produce our culture’s most exhilarating art.
The Making of the American Essay offers the essay at its most varied, unique, and imaginative best, proving that the impulse to make essays in America is as old and as original as the nation itself.

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The highly anticipated final volume in A New History of the Essay, John D’Agata’s landmark trilogy on the essay

About the Author

John  D'Agata
Credit: Thomas Langdon
John D’Agata is the editor of The Making of the American Essay, the author of Halls of Fame and The Lifespan of a Fact, and the editor of The Next American Essay and The Lost Origins of the Essay. He teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa, where he directs the Nonfiction Writing Program.
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  • “D’Agata’s conception of the essay responds directly to a post-Google age. . . . What makes the essay hum, for D’Agata, is its ability to go beyond mere reportage, to exist ‘between chance and contrivance, between the given and the made.’”Los Angeles Times
  • “The concluding volume of D’Agata’s massive trilogy of anthologies on the nonfiction form showcases a remarkable array of writers from Anne Bradstreet to Kathy Acker.”Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
  • “D’Agata’s pioneering spirit in these volumes offers one of the most broadminded views of creative nonfiction in the persona of the essay.”Signature Reads
  • “I would say that out of the twenty some years I’ve been doing this show there are few books that I’m certain will be read well beyond the show’s lifetime, and it’s been an honor to be associated with them.”—Michael Silverblatt, KCRW’s Bookworm    

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