Associate Professor Joey Franklin tackles some of the most pressing issues facing society today using his favorite medium: the essay
Associate Professor Joey Franklin (English), who specializes in the personal essay, read excerpts from his most recent book Delusions of Grandeur: American Essays at last week’s English Reading Series.
His collection addresses various aspects of family life “at the crossroads of major social issues, including toxic masculinity, racism and white privilege, poverty, homelessness, and religious extremism.”
In an interview previous to his reading, Franklin talked of his “post-2016 election funk.” He recounted how he spent hours of his time before election day on social media trying to convince people how to vote. “And, of course, I convinced exactly nobody because that’s how social media debate works—it doesn’t,” said Franklin. “And it was really discouraging, but I still had all these big questions about what was going on in the country.” He continued, “I’d almost forgotten in the middle of all that social media wrangling that I was a writer and that there were other ways to engage with the ideas than over social media. And so, I started writing in earnest.”
Franklin noted that his goal in curating this collection was “to tackle a bunch of questions related to social issues and see what the essay would teach me.” Franklin is a firm believer in the power of the essay as a way to understand the world, and ourselves, in a more nuanced way. “Both reading and writing [essays] is a way to do ‘calisthenics’ for our mind, to slow the world down a little bit and help us think a little more clearly about everything.” He went on to say, “That essayistic way of seeing the world is a much healthier way, and a much more faithful way, to live in the world. It’s much more humble, it’s much more teachable, and it’s healthier to see the world as not a problem that someone else needs to fix but as an opportunity to help make it a better place.”
Ultimately, Franklin stated, “My hope is that when someone reads my book that they have a clearer understanding of how complicated and messy the world is and what our individual responsibility is to make it better.”
—Heather Bergeson (English, ’22)