Is this the time of the essay? CounterText: Volume 9, Issue 3

by Mario Aquilina

‘Is this the time of the essay?’ Or ‘is the essay out of time?’ ‘What is time in the essay?’ ‘What, actually, is the essay, today?’ ‘Do we, in post-literary times, keep focusing on the essay as a genre, or do we turn, instead, towards the essayistic as a mode that appears in many forms but does not belong exclusively to any of them?’ ‘What, then, would essayistic time be, and what does it do in not only the essay but also in manifestoes, film, photography and multimodal digital spaces?’ These are some of the key questions addressed in the special issue of CounterText on ‘The Time of the Essay’ (2023, Volume 9.3).

Adopting a wide range of perspectives — some arguing for a political understanding of the essay and its potential, others preferring to focus on the formal characteristics of the form — contributors draw from the rich history of the essay while focusing on the contemporary manifestations of the essayistic in a range of genres and modes. The issue includes articles on: the personal essay in hard times (Jenny Spinner); the post-internet essay (Sarah Edwards); contemporary essayistic trends in the performing arts (Jasper Delbecke); the blended genre of the essay manifesto (Carsten Junker); the occasionality of the essay (Kathryn Murphy); the dialctics of essayism (Thijs Lijster); and time in the essay, or, essayistic temporality (Mario Aquilina).

The issue also includes a personal essay by Bob Cowser Jr, ‘Last June’, recounting and reflecting on the author’s return to his family home shortly before his mother passed away, as well as an excerpt from Ogutu Muraya’s ‘The Ocean Is Always Trying to Pull You In’, a text that is also inspired by personal experience and that is also reflective, while including strong elements of fictionality, thus demonstrating the permeability of the essayistic. This and other aspects of Muraya’s work, which tends to combine different modalities of expression and which positions itself in what may be described as a countertextual relation to the literary (specifically Western conceptions of it), are discussed in a conversation between Mario Aquilina and Ogutu Muraya.

The issue is guest edited by Mario Aquilina, whose contributions to contemporary discussions about the essay and the essayistic include editing The Essay at the Limits: Poetics, Politics and Form (Bloomsbury, 2021) and co-editing The Edinburgh Companion to the Essay (Edinburgh University Press, 2022) with Nicole B. Wallack and Bob Cowser Jr.

About the journal

CounterText focuses on contemporary literary and post-literary cultures, publishing articles, interviews and creative work centred on the study of literature and its 21st-century extensions. It poses questions such as: Is literature what it used to be? Are the broader resonances of the literary being overtaken in the drifts towards image cultures, digital spaces, globalisation and technoscientific advances? Or might the literary simply be elsewhere?

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Edinburgh University Press
Edinburgh University Press
Articles: 100

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