S246. The Speculative Essay

Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
Saturday, February 11, 2017
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm


Many essayists have employed speculation throughout the form’s history, relying wholly on speculation (relating nothing verifiable) rather than engaging “fact.” Virginia Woolf’s “Death of a Moth,” for example, does not require a verifiable moth to achieve its power. But what are the limits to speculation? Must essayists always signal their speculative intentions? Can an essayist delve into the traditional realm of the fiction writer, overturning traditional notions of point of view in the essay?



Robin Hemley is the author ten books of fiction and nonfiction and numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes. He is the founder and principal organizer of the NonfictioNow Conference and the Director of the Writing Program at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.

Lia Purpura is the author of eight collections of essays, poems, and translations, most recently, It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems.) Her awards include Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright fellowships, and On Looking (essays) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at UMBC.

Nicole Walker is the author of Egg, Canning Peaches for the Apocalypse, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, along with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction. She directs the MFA program at Northern Arizona University.

Brian Blanchfield is the author of three books of poetry and prose, most recently PROXIES: Essays Near Knowing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award. His book of poems, A Several World, received the 2014 James Laughlin Award. He is visiting poet this spring at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Leila Philip


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center