Heretical voices: the reasons of the essay in modern and contemporary literature
One of the features that anyone embarking on the description of the essay as a genre unquestionably has to face is the indeterminacy that is germane to its essence (Obaldia 1995), which is reflected in a desultory and fragmentary style, made up of anecdotes, illuminations, criticisms and suggestions for further reflection (Berardinelli 2008). Ever since its 17
Following T. W. Adorno’s 1958 definition of the essay as a “heretical genre”, we might indeed be tempted to postulate that the essayist’s voice is bestowed on his/her readers at full strength when it engages in a process of systemic critique and current demystifying of dogmas pertaining either to a specific intellectual paradigm or to a historical period at large. Embodied from time to time by medieval Scholasticism, or 18-century Enlightenment, Victorian moralism, up to 20 -century Totalitarian ideologies, these dogmas sanctioned, by means of their inflexibility, the victory of single memorable essays that have remained, despite their original context of production, aesthetical testimonies capable of resisting the decay of the material situation they originally commented upon (Ozick 1997).
A fierce, free, heretical voice is what allows the essayist to embark on a diffused, polemical questioning of the received doxa, of theconventional of ideological conformity, and it also allows a retrospective recognition of the essay as the prime literary form suitable for criticism, intended as a campaign against banality deriving its strength from an epideictic liveliness embodied by the logic of the
Starting from these general considerations, we solicit proposals for contributions we solicit proposals for contributions to a monographic issue of Odradek: Studies in Philosophy of Literature, Aesthetics, and New Media Theoriesproposing general reflections on the form, single-essay analyses, or panoramic views of essayists whose body of work illuminated this ability of voicing the heresy. Among the possible lines of research we wish to underpin:
- the essay as a vehicle for the critique of religious dogma;
- the essay as an instrument for an resistance to Totalitarian regimes;
- the essay as a tool for novel or irreverent literary criticism;
- the essay as the scourge of aesthetical and artistic conformism:
- the essay as criticism of social mores of a specific epoch.
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Paolo Bugliani, firstname.lastname@example.org