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Welcome to the challenging world of New York University and to the website for the Expository Writing Program.
NYU’s required writing courses are designed to prepare students for the work they will do in all of their academic courses. These writing courses are foundational and essential; they prepare students for more rigorous thinking, more elegant writing, and more supple imagining.
In our writing courses, the essay is the coin of the realm. Essay. Not the five-paragraph one. Not the one that begins with a simple assertion, claim, proposition, or declaration and moves forward, sometimes ploddingly, point by point. The essays students write are exploratory as well as persuasive; they move forward as a form of inquiry, turning on themselves again and again, surprising even the writer as she writes. Every good essay yearns to be sui generis, unlike any of its predecessors.
But of course, even the most unusual essay has features in common with all the others: a three-part structure (beginning, middle, ending); an idea, or, more properly, a network of ideas that shape and bind the many parts of the essay together, whether those parts be stories of experience, stories about written texts, or reflections about images (paintings, movies, tv shows, or sculpted objects); and, finally, every good essay reveals how the mind writing it actually makes sense of things. That final element seems now, after more than thirty-five years of teaching, the most fundamental of all.
Said another way: The mind moves deftly but confidently across the pages of good essays, and we, the readers, are permitted to see that mind transforming evidence and being transformed by it, creating a field of intellectual energy that draws writers and readers into relationship.
The essay does not prove, repeat, or reiterate; it is not a static litany of facts. Instead, the essay, like the idea, develops, changes, and expands as the writer considers both her subject and her readers. When she gets the words right, when she figures out what she has to say and how to say it, the writing becomes compelling, the subject and the idea more interesting, the reader captivated.
You can see representative work from the Expository Writing Program and its many courses at the Mercer Street link. There you will find annual collections of exemplary student essays. We invite you to sample our wares.