Morphology of the Essay: Ander Monson, Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Leslie Jamison, & Maggie Nelson

Memorial Arch and MEmorial Church of the Leland Stanford Jr University Palo Alto 1908

According to Wikipedia, a keystone is “used figuratively to refer to a central element of a larger structure […] that locks the other elements in place and allows the whole to be self-supporting.” With a stone archway, the form is inherent, or predetermined. First, there is the abutment, then vertical supports, then voussoirs, and finally, crucially, the keystone. Ander Monson, in a 2008 interview: “in considering form, I think we immediately run up against expectation.”We, as readers, expect a certain order to things, and as writers, we learn the conventions of form and structure. We are taught that you can’t place a keystone without the voussoirs, yet you can start an essay without first deciding what form it will be, where the keystone will reside.

Leslie Jamison‘s essay, “Morphology of the Hit,” admits, “I never know how to start this story. I just don’t. That’s why I need functions.” Specifically, the functions of Vladimir Propp, author of Morphology of the Folktale, which provides Jamison “a map for storytelling, a catalog of plot pieces arranged into thirty-one functions: commencements, betrayals, resolutions.”

Continue reading on the Ploughshares bloghttp://blog.pshares.org/index.php/morphology-of-the-essay-ander-monson-claudia-rankine-eula-biss-leslie-jamison-maggie-nelson/

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