You may think that an essay (the kind of writing you'll do in this class) means an interpretation of literature, since many students are asked to write about literature in school. But in late Renaissance France, the father of the modern essay, Michel de Montaigne, knew the word 'essai' to mean simply 'an attempt,' and so he attempted to write essays that used the "questions of his time as premises for his reflections," and that "[constructed] his portrayal of the human condition from the events unfolding around him" (Paul Wimmer, Columbia College). This course allows you, too, to explore your ideas within your own particular social and environmental context . . . to cast an observant, questioning, and searching eye on your lives and times in several essay projects as part of a highly collaborative, discussion-based course. Along the way you will read a diversity of writers who are also using the nonfiction essay to understand the realities of their worlds and minds.