The essay with a thousand faces

Academic writing and heroic narrative


  • Alexander Gooch


This paper describes structural similarities between the academic essay and the heroic narrative. It presents a simple model of the heroic narrative, based on an analysis originating in the work of Campbell (1968), and it then traces correspondences between the structure of the heroic narrative and the structure of the academic essay as it is generally understood and taught in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes, and in Academic Language and Learning (ALL) contexts more generally. The article suggests that a good essay could be one that meets a reader’s narrative expectations and that the ‘heroic journey’ could provide a fruitful metaphor to consider the nature and function of essays.




How to Cite

Gooch, A. (2021). The essay with a thousand faces: Academic writing and heroic narrative. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 15(1), 134–143. Retrieved from



Research Articles