Thesis Title

Personal Essays and Short Stories: With an Introduction Exploring the Difference Between the Two Genres

Date of Graduation

Spring 1997


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

James Baumlin

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


The personal essay, while obviously not formless, subordinates formal considerations to the idiosyncratic voice, or persona, of the writer. As a result, personal essayists use a variety of techniques found in other genres, especially those of the short story. This thesis project explores the problems involved in distinguishing the personal essay from the short story. The critical introduction is a three-part analysis of the role of story in personal essays. I consider the fictive qualities of the personal essay and discuss the importance of self-portrayal in the genre's tradition. I then evaluate six selections of my own writing, four essays and two stories, supporting the view that while genre boundaries are blurry, there are differences, especially from the writer's perspective. Contents: Critical introduction -- A town, a house, a landlord -- Sartorial challenges -- On hiring that done -- Family reunions for dummies -- To hell with pancakes -- Elroy McElroy's fall : part three.


© Price T Flanagan