Quotidiana, from the word quotidian, is a website dedicated to the essay. Quotidiana includes my writing and teaching portfolios, an online workshop community for me and my fellow O. U. Bobcats, a set of conference papers and annotated bibliographies, a collection of interviews with some of my favorite contemporary essayists, a selection of the "Essayest American Essays," from recent years, and, most importantly and most substantially, an anthology of hundreds of classical essays, all published before 1923, all partakers of the ruminative, associative, idea-driven form that predates and surpasses the current "creative nonfiction" trendy stuff. Although most of these essays are available online elsewhere, some are not, and already Quotidiana is one of the biggest online anthologies of classical essays anywhere.
The word Quotidiana, though a legitimate word in Italian, is kind of made-up in English. Think Indiana or Americana or the title of an academic journal I recently discovered, Conradiana. I use the -ana in that same way: "suffix (forming plural nouns) denoting things associated with a person, place, or field of interest." Thus Quotidiana is a collection of materials concerned with the everyday, just like essays themselves.
But who am I? I am...
I am uncomfortable assigning titles or job descriptions to the many people who have helped with this site. I am also a bit tired of writing about myself in the third person. Suffice to say that I began Quotidiana in 2005 as a repository for my professional work. I received my Ph.D. from Ohio University in 2004, where I studied, taught, and wrote personal essays, a practice I continue today as an assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University. Around the turn of the century, I discovered the word quotidian, which I had longed for since learning and falling in love with cotidiano/a in Spanish years earlier when I lived in Uruguay and worked as a missionary for the Mormon Church. I hoped for such a strange and beautifully complex, ornate, Latinate word in English because it seems antithetical to its meaning: "common, mundane, everyday..." But I was looking in the Cs of the dictionary. One day, by glorious chance, I stumbled across quotidian, with a Q. This was one of the best days of my life.
I did the web design and lots of the input and some of the background configuring. I also did the off-site arranging and teaching that helped build up certain sections of the site. If there's anything wrong, it's likely my fault.
Joey Franklin worked as my college-funded research assistant during the fall 2006 and winter 2007 semesters. He selected, read, scanned, edited, summarized, and posted hundreds of essays. Most of what you read in the essays section of the site is the result of his dedicated work. He benefited, too, from his work. I doubt there is an undergraduate anywhere in the U. S. who's as fluent in the classical essay as Joey is.
Joey is an essayist himself. He won the 2006 Random House 20something Essays by 20something Writers contest with his "Working at Wendy's," and is published in that anthology. Locally at BYU, he has placed in several essay contests (David O. McKay, Vera Hinckley Mayhew). He completed an Honors thesis collection of his essays, and is off to Ohio University to begin master's studies in fall 2007.
Lara Burton also worked as my research assistant, thanks to English-department funding, in fall 2007. In addition to adding new essays, she wrote code to help formatting and display issues, thus making the site more user-friendly and capable.
Lara's own essays have been published in Sunstone and Literature and Belief. She will receive her M.A. in English from BYU in 2008, to complement her expertise in Hebrew, Ethiopic, and other languages.
My friends and fellow essayists from Ohio University—Michael Danko, Shannon Lakanen, Desirae Matherly, Michelle Disler, Kelley Evans—have also helped out a lot on this site. At the AWP conference in 2007, we gave a panel presentation on "Teaching the Classical Essay." In preparation, we each chose essays to post on site.
During the winter semester of 2007, I taught a senior seminar at BYU called "History and Theory of the Essay." My goal was to create a community of scholars that would work together to extend our understanding of the genre. During the first part of the class, students read a number of canonical essays, both from this site and from Phillip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay. Then they set off in groups to rediscover almost-forgotten women essayists. They wrote biographies and prepared a number of essays that now form part of the Classical Essays section of Quotidiana. Then, at the end of the semester, students read in 2006's literary journals searching for the most legitimate essays of the year. Their selections (and mine) form the Essayest American Essays section.
The class members are:
Ryan Blodgett, Lara Burton, Nick Castellanos, Catherine Curtis, Amanda Dambrink, Joey Franklin, Joseph Gales, David Grover, Becky Jensen, Afton Johnson, Amy Jones, John Madsen, Kelly Monson, Alison Roberg, Stacy Serafine, Lauren Shaw, Julianne Sheffield.