Jane Silcott and the Personal Essay as Pedagogical Form

Sillicott Prom Dress Personal Essay

Jane (Hamilton) Silcott’s personal essay in today’s Globe & Mail (April 17, 2013) — My Daughter’s Prom Dress: Have I Morphed into a Prude — coincided with my reading about the personal essay as pedagogical form (Duck-Joo Kwak in Teachers College Record, 2011)


Kwak, Duck-Joo (2011). The essay as pedagogical form: Teacher education and Stanley Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy. Teachers College Record, 113 (8), 1733-1754.

Silcott confirms Michel de Montaigne’s ideas in his book Essais,  when she reflects on her initial dismay with her daughter’s choice of prom dress. Montaigne identifies the essay as a philosophical form for “trying oneself out” or “putting oneself to the test,” or self-study” in which philosophical reflection and personal storytelling are held in balance in such a way as to uncover a deeper sense of things (Kwak, 2011). Like Montaigne, Sillcott is “herself the substance of her book” when she reads her reaction against her current reading of  her friend’s research about “atrocities against women. In Egypt, women are protesting and then being dragged through the streets, beaten and imprisoned. Then they go home and are beaten by their families, by their brothers and fathers. In India, women are groped, beaten, raped and burned. Female fetuses are aborted there and in China. Meanwhile, here in North America, women are splayed out on billboards, admired, stalked, harassed, abused, raped, beaten, murdered. ” She poses:  “How aware I am of where she is in her life: 17, humming. The body looms. There is a bloom. Do we bury it under heavy cloth or do we celebrate it? Do we tell her she should hide herself, deny this bloom? Or do we let her learn to negotiate within it? 

I eagerly await the release of Silcott’s book of award-winning essays, Everything Rustles! http://www.anvilpress.com/Books/everything-rustles

Back Jacket Blurbs:

In this debut collection of personal essays, Silcott looks at the tangle of midlife, the long look back, the shorter look forward, and the moments right now that shimmer and rustle around her. Here is love, grief, uncertainty, longing, joy, desire, fury, and fear. Also wandering bears, marauding llamas, light and laundry rooms.

“Jane Silcott writes crisp and compelling narratives; as their import emerges, small epiphanies wink into consciousness, and we are taken up into everyday life. Reading this collection of her work we glimpse layers of the real that seem so often to conceal the world from us. A wonderful book, a book of wonders.”
­ Stephen Osborne, Publisher, Geist Magazine

“Reading ‘Fish,’ I was so deeply brought back to my own subdued memories of losing my mother, that I felt in Jane the presence of a found sister. For me, these essays are about what we once were, about ageing itself, about the solidity of those we love and the porousness of who we are. They are searching, self-deprecating, celebratory and sorrowful, and they rustle with wondrous detail and brave observation.”
­ Madeleine Thien, author of Dogs at the Perimeter

“Jane Silcott is the kind of writer we discover and then immediately wonder where she has been all our lives. Her work is fearless, honest, and every sentence is edged like a gem. Her insight and intelligence locate human grace in the midst of even the most difficult of subjects. She is a writer to put your faith in.”
­ Curtis Gillespie, Editor, Eighteen Bridges

“Read these wonderful essays slowly; savour their lively intelligence, their thoughtfulness, their cheek. Silcott takes the personal essay right back to its most productive origins and purpose: to explore (essayer) our world’s mysteries with amazement and humility.”
­ Andreas Schroeder, author of Renovating Heaven

~ by artpoped on April 17, 2013.

One Response to “Jane Silcott and the Personal Essay as Pedagogical Form”

  1. Thank you for mentioning my piece in the Globe (and my upcoming book). I’m thrilled to be named in the same paragraph as Montaigne and delighted that you liked the piece. I’m glad to know of this site!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: