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The Art of the Essay


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The satirical provocations of Jonathan Swift, the wry reflections of Joan Didion, the convoluted musings of Derrida, that dreadful treatise you wrote in Year 11 on the role played by Lady Macbeth in her husband’s demise – all fall into the delightfully broad category of the ‘essay’, perhaps the most flexible of non-fiction forms.

Some examples are, of course, more successful than others, but the beauty of the essay is that it can embrace uncertainty, irony and contradiction in ways that other forms of non-fiction can not. A great essay can challenge, inspire, educate, provoke and entertain.

In this discussion, three renowned Australian essay-writers – Anna Krien, Karen Hitchcock and Robert Manne – will come together with host Nick Feik to shed light on how they each approach their work and to discuss the state of the essay in Australia today.


Anna Krien

Anna Krien is the author of the award-winning Night Games and Into the Woods, as well as two Quarterly Essays, Us and Them and The Long Goodbye, and a novel Act of Grace. Anna’s writing has been published in The Monthly, The Age, Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Stories and The Big Issue. I... Read more

Karen Hitchcock

Karen Hitchcock is the author of Quarterly Essay 57 on caring for the elderly (March 2015). She is the author of the award-winning story collection Little White Slips and a regular contributor to the Monthly. She is also a staff physician in acute and general medicine at a large city public hospital... Read more

Robert Manne

Robert Manne’s many books include Making Trouble and The Words That Made Australia (as co-editor). He is the author of three Quarterly Essays, In Denial, Sending Them Home and Bad News. He is a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University. ... Read more

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of the Monthly magazine. As a writer he has contributed to the Age, the Saturday Paper, the Drum and the Economist Intelligence Unit on politics, environmentalism, economics and popular culture. Prior to the Monthly, he was programmer at the Melbourne International Film Festi... Read more


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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.