After exploring the genre in class during the fall of 2016, Taylor Rugg ’17 and Alexia Sereti ’19 published their lyric essays this year in two notable literary magazines.
Rugg’s essay, “As a Star Moves among Stars in the Night’s Darkening,” appeared this fall in the online and print editions of The Journal, an award-winning publication produced by Ohio State University. Sereti’s piece, “I Came to Explore the Wreck: An Epistolary Essay,” was published in June by the Philadelphia-based magazine Cleaver, which featured the essay in its “Life As Activism” series exploring social justice.
Hobart and William Smith became the birthplace of the lyric essay — a literary genre that straddles the essay and the lyric poem — in 1997, when the late Professor of English Deborah Tall and John D’Agata ’95, the 2017-18 Trias Writer-in-Residence, coined the term in that year’s issue of the Seneca Review.
In the fall 2016 lyric essay course taught by Assistant Professor of English Geoffrey Babbitt, Rugg, Sereti and their classmates examined work from a wide range of writers and practiced their own writing to better appreciate the lyric essay.
Both Rugg and Sereti’s published essays combine elements of poetry and memoir to explore themes of loss, power and growing up.
For Rugg, “the genre of the lyric essay gave me permission to tell stories in a way that I had never known was possible.” A writing and rhetoric major, she learned through the course how to tell multiple stories at once, a technique she employs in “As a Star Moves among Stars in the Night’s Darkening.”
“Nothing we say stands alone,” she explains. “There is a constant web of interrelated stories, whether they are our own, or stories that we have heard from others in the news or literature.”
Similarly, Sereti, an English major with a creative writing concentration, says studying the lyric essay empowered her to find new ways to express herself through writing.
“The Lyric Essay was instrumental in teaching me how to use different forms of writing to communicate a point to my audience,” says Sereti, whose essay is written in the form of eight letters to her younger self, inspired by her emotions following the 2016 presidential election.
Rugg, who completed the essay during an independent study with Babbitt, graduated with Honors and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She is currently pursuing a master’s in rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University, where she continues exploring her interest in language, rhetoric and the military.
Sereti, who studied abroad in England, is currently working on a creative Honors project.