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The Lost Art of the Essay

Uploaded by Gotskillz on Jul 05, 2004

What is an essay? Based on the current consensus of dictionary definitions and my own ongoing literary experiences, I would feel comfortable defining an essay as an analytical, interpretative, or occassionally informal literary composition, usually of a concise length though sometimes longer, which engages in a given topic often for the purpose of advancing an author's thesis or point of view to her or his audience. Essays can be formal, informal, satirical, even poetic. Literature's evolution has enabled the essay to accommodate the demands of the ages and assume the broadest or narrowest of subjects. Despite its past and present success, the essay is still one of the most underestimated, under-celebrated modes of human expression. Plainly put, our appreciation of the essay is not, this author believes, where it could or should be.
The essay sprouted from the simple needs of advancing ideas. Like any plant it grew taller and many branches, and the essay is a tree today in the forest of literature, one with strong, deep roots in the history of human expression. Many among us take solace in its shade or nurture it through writing and reading essays. It is of such enduring fiber that the essay will subsist indefinitely. Yet, with such a rich and vibrant forest of plants and creatures, the essay often blends into the background--partly due to its natural adaption to the environment of texts and critics across history, partly due to the sheer number of texts in existence today, and partly due to a lack of capable discernment on our part as students of literature. Our need to understand the essay is only exceeded by the form's own need to defy set definitions.

Aside from all the scholastics that have dominated the essay form, there has still yet to arise a universal essay model that can at once typify the form for literary taxonomy and provide a clear example to future students as to what constitutes an essay. This is, I suggest, by genetic design and is a major reason why essays have out-survived countless other literary forms. It is this organic sense of composition and mutative capability that allows the essay form to survive another generation. In fact, while no two critics will agree as to the specific characteristics of the "ideal essay," this is (to the literary taxonomist's dismay) a very good thing indeed, as it allows the essay to...

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Uploaded by:   Gotskillz

Date:   07/05/2004

Category:   Other Topics

Length:   5 pages (1,174 words)

Views:   4407

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