An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse".
Aldous Huxley , a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference". These three poles or worlds in which the essay may exist are:. Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays " 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 Frenchman Michel de Montaigne — was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterize these as "attempts" to put his thoughts into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing. For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in , according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English — William Hazlitt , Charles Lamb , Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays e.
Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays. As with the novel , essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas.
Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. Notable examples include The Pillow Book c. Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.
This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists. The defining features of a "cause and effect" essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject , determine the purpose , consider the audience , think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language , and decide on a conclusion.
Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts. Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies.
It is grouped by the object chunking or by point sequential. The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description.
A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene.
Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language , metaphor , and simile to arrive at a dominant impression. In the dialectic form of the essay, which is commonly used in philosophy , the writer 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 presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present.
This type is sometimes called an ethics paper. An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes. Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay.
An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such.
A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks , flash-forwards , and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of a narrative is the plot. When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative.
A narrative is usually arranged chronologically. An argumentative essay is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic.
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