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Encyclopedia > Essay

An essay - is a typically short piece of writing, from an author's personal point of view. Essays are non-fiction but often subjective; while expository, they can also include narrative. Essays can be literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Perspective in theory of cognition is the choice of a context or a reference (or the result of this choice) from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience, cohesively forming a coherent belief, typically for comparing with another. ... For the book by Chuck Palahniuk titled Non-fiction, see Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories. ... This article is in need of attention. ... Expository writing is a mode of writing in which the purpose of the author is to inform, explain, describe or define his or her subject to the reader. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ... A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. ... Argument may refer to: (in logic) a logical argument, that is, an attempt to prove a demonstration of the truth of a conclusion based on the truth of a set of premises (in mathematics) at least three different things: a parameter or independent variable that is the input to a...

The definition of an essay is vague, overlapping with those of an article and a short story. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g. Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population provide counterexamples. For Wikipedia guidelines, see Wikipedia:What is an article. ... This article is in need of attention. ... Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to everyday speech. ... This article is about the art form. ... For other uses, see Alexander Pope (disambiguation). ... For other persons named John Locke, see John Locke (disambiguation). ... An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is one of John Lockes two most famous works, the other being his Second Treatise on Civil Government. ... Thomas Robert Malthus, FRS (13th February, 1766 – 29th December, 1834), was an English demographer and political economist. ... An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798. ...

The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, 'to try' or 'to attempt'. In English essay first meant 'a trial' or 'an attempt', and this is still an alternative meaning. The first author to describe his works as essays was the Frenchman Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592); he used the term to characterize these as 'attempts' to put his thoughts adequately into writing. Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch, a translation of whose Oeuvres morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot, Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580. For the rest of his life he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (French pronounced ) (February 28, 1533–September 13, 1592) was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. ... Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ... Jacques Amyot (October 30, 1513 - February 6, 1593), French writer, was born of poor parents, at Melun. ... January 16 - Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk is tried for treason for his part in the Ridolfi plot to restore Catholicism in England. ... Essays is the title of a book written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. ...

Francis Bacon's essays, published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as essays. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. For other persons named Francis Bacon, see Francis Bacon (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see: 1597 (number). ... Events January 20 - Mathias becomes Holy Roman Emperor. ... Events March 27 - Prince Charles Stuart becomes King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland. ... For other persons of the same name, see Ben Johnson (disambiguation). ... // Events April 4 – King of Spain signs an edit of expulsion of all moriscos from Spain April 9 – Spain recognizes Dutch independence May 23 - Official ratification of the Second Charter of Virginia. ... The Oxford English Dictionary print set The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a dictionary published by the Oxford University Press (OUP), and is the most successful dictionary of the English language, (not to be confused with the one-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, formerly New Oxford Dictionary of English, of...

Notable essayists are legion. They include G.K. Chesterton, Virginia Woolf, Voltaire, Adrienne Rich, Alamgir Hashmi, Joan Didion, Jean Baudrillard, Benjamin Disraeli, Susan Sontag, Natalia Ginzburg, Sara Suleri, Annie Dillard, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Charles Lamb, Leo Tolstoy, William Hazlitt, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Walter Bagehot, Maurice Maeterlinck, George Orwell, George Bernard Shaw, John D'Agata, Reynolds Price, Gore Vidal, Marguerite Yourcenar, J.M. Coetzee, Gaston Waringhien and E.B. White. For the town of Chesterton in Cambridgeshire, see Chesterton (Cambridge). ... For the American writer, see Virginia Euwer Wolff. ... For the singer of the same name, see Voltaire (musician). ... Adrienne Rich (born May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland) is an American poet, essayist, and feminist. ... Alamgir Hashmi (also know as Aurangzeb Alamgir Hashmi) (born November 15, 1951) is a major English poet of Pakistani origin in the latter half of the 20th century. ... Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American writer, known as a journalist, essayist, and novelist. ... Jean Baudrillard (July 29, 1929 – March 6, 2007) (IPA pronunciation: [1]) was a French cultural theorist, philosopher, political commentator, and photographer. ... Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (December 21, 1804 - April 24, British Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and author. ... Image needed Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American essayist, novelist, filmmaker, and activist. ... Natalia Ginzburg née Levi (July 14, 1916, Palermo—October 7, 1991, Rome) was an Italian author whose work explored family relationships, politics, and philosophy. ... Sara Suleri Goodyear, author and, beginning in 1983, professor of English at Yale University, born in Pakistan under the British Raj. ... Annie Dillard (born 30 April 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, best known for her narrative nonfiction. ... Joseph Addison, the Kit-cat portrait, circa 1703–1712, by Godfrey Kneller. ... Sir Richard Steele (bap. ... Charles Lamb (1775-1834) Charles Lamb (10 February 1775 –- 27 December 1834) was an English essayist, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the childrens book Tales from Shakespeare, which he produced along with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847). ... Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy(Lyof, Lyoff) (September 9 [O.S. August 28] 1828 – November 20 [O.S. November 7] 1910) (Russian: , IPA:  ), commonly referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer – novelist, essayist, dramatist and philosopher – as well as pacifist Christian anarchist and educational reformer. ... // William Hazlitt (10 April 1778 – 18 September 1830) was an English writer remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, often esteemed the greatest English literary critic after Samuel Johnson. ... Quotes His imagination resembled the wings of an ostrich. ... Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, poet, and leader of the Transcendentalist movement in the early nineteenth century. ... Thoreau redirects here. ... Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 4, 1792 – July 8, 1822; pronounced ) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is widely considered to be among the finest lyric poets of the English language. ... Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (née Godwin) (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English romantic/gothic novelist and the author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. ... Walter Bagehot (3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877), IPA (see [[1]]), was a nineteenth century British economist. ... Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck, Belgian author Count Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck (August 29, 1862 - May 6, 1949) was a Belgian poet, playwright, and essayist. ... George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903[1][2] – 21 January 1950) who was an English writer and journalist well-noted as a novelist, critic, and commentator on politics and culture. ... George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856–2 November 1950) was a world-renowned Irish author. ... The Program in Creative Writing, more commonly known as the Iowa Writers Workshop, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa is a graduate-level creative writing program in the United States. ... Reynolds Price Reynolds Price (born February 1, 1933, as Edward Reynolds Price) is a U.S. novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist and James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University. ... Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (born October 3, 1925) (pronounced and , ) is an American author of novels, stage plays, screenplays, and essays, and the scion of a prominent political family. ... Marguerite Yourcenar was the pseudonym of French novelist Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour (June 8, 1903 - December 17, 1987). ... J.M. Coetzee John Maxwell Coetzee (pronounced coot-SEE-uh) is a South African author. ... Gaston Waringhien (1901 - 1991) was a French linguist, lexicographer, and esperantist. ... Elwyn Brooks White (July 11, 1899–October 1, 1985) was an American essayist, author, and noted prose stylist. ...

It is very difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. The following remarks by Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, may help: Aldous Leonard Huxley (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. ...

"Like the novel, the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything. By tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece, and it is therefore impossible to give all things full play within the limits of a single essay. But a collection of essays can cover almost as much ground, and cover it almost as thoroughly, as can a long novel. Montaigne's Third Book is the equivalent, very nearly, of a good slice of the Comédie Humaine. Essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference. There is the pole of the personal and the autobiographical; there is the pole of the objective, the factual, the concrete-particular; and there is the pole of the abstract-universal. Most essayists are at home and at their best in the neighborhood of only one of the essay's three poles, or at the most only in the neighborhood of two of them. There are the predominantly personal essayists, who write fragments of reflective autobiography and who look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description. There are the predominantly objective essayists who do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. … And how splendid, how truly oracular are the utterances of the great generalizers! … The most richly satisfying essays are those which make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist" (Collected Essays, "Preface").


The essay as a pedagogical tool

In recent times, essays have become a major part of a formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants (see admissions essay). In both secondary and tertiary education, essays are used to judge the mastery and comprehension of material. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay. For the community in Florida, see University, Florida. ... An admissions essay is written by a potential student as part of some college admissions processes in order to get to know more about the student than what forms can provide. ...

Academic essays are usually more formal than literary ones. They may still allow the presentation of the writer's own views, but this is done in a logical and factual manner, with the use of the first person often discouraged. First-person narrative is a literary technique in which the story is narrated by one character, who explicitly refers to him or herself in the first person, that is, I. the narrator is a fool putting his nose into the storytelling exercise. ...

The five-paragraph essay

Main article: Five paragraph essay

Some students' first exposure to the genre is the five paragraph essay, a highly structured form requiring an introduction presenting the thesis statement; three body paragraphs, each of which presents an idea to support the thesis together with supporting evidence and quotations; and a conclusion, which restates the thesis and summarizes the supporting points. The use of this format is controversial. Proponents argue that it teaches students how to organize their thoughts clearly in writing; opponents characterize its structure as rigid and repetitive. The five-paragraph essay is a formal format of written argument. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Thesis. ...

Academic essays

Longer academic essays (often with a word limit of between 2,000 to 5,000 words) are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review. Longer essays may also contain an introductory page in which words and phrases from the title are tightly defined. Most academic institutions will require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material used in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention allows others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of the facts and quotations used to support the essay's argument, and thereby help to evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and tests their intellectual capabilities. Some types of essays are: A Literature review is a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current knowledge on a particular topic. ... For Works Cited lists, see Citation. ...

Descriptive essays
The aim of descriptive essays is to provide a vivid picture of a person, location, object, event, or debate. It will offer details that will enable the reader to imagine the item described.
Definitive essays
The aim of a definition essay is to describe what a particular term means using facts, terms and anecdotes that a reader will understand.
Narrative essays
The aim of a narrative essay is to describe a course of events from a subjective vantage point, and may be written in first-person present or first person past tense. Though not always chronological, narrative essays do follow the development of a person through a series of experiences and reflections. The focus of the essay is often to more clearly identify the point of view of the narrator, and to express common features of subjectivity.
Compare and contrast essays
The aim of a compare and contrast essay is to develop the relationship between two or more things. Generally, the goal is to show that superficial differences or similarities are inadequate, and that closer examination reveals their unobvious, yet significant, relations or differences.
Persuasive essays
In a persuasive essay, the writer tries to persuade the reader to accept an idea or agree with an opinion. The writer's purpose is to convince the reader that her or his point of view is a reasonable one. The persuasive essay should be written in a style that grabs and holds the reader's attention, and the writer's opinion should be backed up by strong supporting details.
Argumentative essays
Argumentative essays are most often used to address controversial issues - i.e. serious issue over which there is some evident disagreement. An argument is a position combined with its supporting reasons. Argumentative papers thus set out a main claim and then provide reasons for thinking that the claim is true. Acknowledging opposing views and either refuting them or conceding to them is a common practice in this form of essay.
Reflective essays
This deals with topics of abstract nature, as habits, and ambitions. Social, political, philosophical and religious subjects also come under this head.
Dialectic essays
In this form of essay used commonly in Philosophy, one makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument (with a counterargument), but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument. This form benefits from being more open-minded while countering a possible flaw that some may present. [1]


Essays in which the writer pulls out the main thesis and outline of a particular paper, and then writes an essay in his or her own style.

Synthesis Essays

Non-literary essays

Visual Arts

In the visual arts, an essay is a preliminary drawing or sketch upon which a final painting or sculpture is based, made as a test of the work's composition (this meaning of the term, like several of those following, comes from the word essay's meaning of "attempt" or "trial"). This article is about the philosophical concept of Art. ...


In the realm of music, composer Samuel Barber wrote a set of "Essays for Orchestra," relying on the form and content of the music to guide the listener's ear, rather than any extra-musical plot or story. For other uses, see Music (disambiguation). ... Samuel Barber, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1944 Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of classical music ranging from orchestral, to opera, choral, and piano music. ...


Film essays are cinematic forms of the essay, with the film consisting of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot per se; or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay. From another perspective, an essay film could be defined as a documentary film visual basis combined with a form of commentary that contains elements of self-portrait (rather than autobiography), where the signature (rather than the life-story) of the filmmaker is apparent. The genre is not well-defined but might include works of early Soviet documentarians like Dziga Vertov, or present-day filmmakers like Michael Moore or Errol Morris. The undisputed master of the essay film is French documentarian Chris Marker. Perhaps the most illuminating film theorist who has treated the essay form in film and video is Raymond Bellour. Soviet redirects here. ... Dziga Vertov Dziga (Dzyga) Vertov (Russian: , Ukrainian: ) January 2, 1896–February 12, 1954) was a Russian pioneer documentary film and newsreel director. ... Michael Francis Moore (born April 23, 1954) is an American political-activist, a film director, author, social commentator, and political humorist. ... Errol Morris Errol Morris (born February 5, 1948) is an American Academy Award winning documentary film director. ... Chris Marker (born July 29, 1921) is a French writer, photographer, film director, multimedia artist and documentary maker. ...

Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as "film-essays" (discussion of film essays) Jean-Luc Godard (French IPA: ) (born 3 December 1930) is a French filmmaker and one of the most influential members of the Nouvelle Vague, or French New Wave. Born to Franco-Swiss parents in Paris, he was educated in Nyon, Switzerland, later studying at the Lycée Rohmer, and the...


A photographic essay is an attempt to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs. Photography [fәtɑgrәfi:],[foʊtɑgrәfi:] is the process of recording pictures by means of capturing light on a light-sensitive medium, such as a film or electronic sensor. ...

See also

An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the papers purpose. ... An admissions essay is written by a potential student as part of some college admissions processes in order to get to know more about the student than what forms can provide. ... The body of literary piece consists of the content that is being discussed in that particular essay through paragraphs. ... A book report is an exposition giving a short summary of a book and a reaction to it. ... A conclusion is a final proposition, which is arrived at after the consideration of evidence, arguments or premises. ... In an essay or article, an introduction is a beginning section which states the purpose and goals of the following writing. ... The following is an abbreviated list of essayists, arranged alphabetically by last name (years of birth and death, if applicable, and country of birth, are noted in parentheses). ... For other uses, see Plagiarism (disambiguation). ... Page 1 of an example of an essay which recieved a score of 11. ... Write redirects here. ...


  • Theodor W. Adorno, The Essay as Form in: Theodor W. Adorno, The Adorno Reader, Blackwell Publishers 2000
  • Beaujour, Michel. Miroirs d'encre: Rhétorique de l'autoportrait. Paris: Seuil, 1980. [Poetics of the Literary Self-Portrait. Trans. Yara Milos. New York: NYU Press, 1991].
  • Bensmaïa, Reda. The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text. Trans. Pat Fedkiew. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969) was a German sociologist, philosopher, pianist, musicologist, and composer. ...

External links

Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive and distribute cultural works. ...

How to write an essay

Wikibooks has a book on the topic of
  • How to write an essay — a short guide for university students by David Gauntlett
  • Reference Generator — generates references in a correct form
  • English Tutoring and Writing Center — different kinds of essays
  • How to Say Nothing in 500 Words — tips for writing good essays
Image File history File links Wikibooks-logo-en. ... Wikibooks logo Wikibooks, previously called Wikimedia Free Textbook Project and Wikimedia-Textbooks, is a wiki for the creation of books. ... David Gauntlett (b. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Essay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1367 words)
An essay is, by definition, a work of non-fiction, and is often expository.
In recent times, essays have become one of the chief tools by which colleges and universities judge the mastery and comprehension of material, and they are sometimes used as a part of the criteria by which the student body is selected as well.
In the visual arts, an essay is a preliminary drawing or sketch upon which a final painting or sculpture is based, made as a test of the work's composition (this meaning of the term, like several of those following, comes from the word essay's meaning of "attempt" or "trial").
Essay - definition of Essay in Encyclopedia (271 words)
Francis Bacon's essays were the first in English that bore the name.
In modern days, essays are a chief tool of colleges to judge learning and comprehension of material.
In academic institutions essays are usually more formal and present writer's own views as well as the comprehensive analysis of what was previously written on this topic.
  More results at FactBites »



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