This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. College application essay samples pdf material may be challenged and removed.
For a description of essays as used by Wikipedia editors, see Wikipedia:Essays. An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.
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 are counterexamples. The concept of an “essay” has been extended to other mediums beyond writing.
A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions. John Locke’s 1690 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 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”. It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. He notes that “the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything”, and adds that “by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece”.
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”. The personal and the autobiographical: The essayists that feel most comfortable in this pole “write fragments of reflective autobiography and look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description”. The objective, the factual, and the concrete particular: The essayists that write from this pole “do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists of setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from the relevant data”.
The abstract-universal: In this pole “we find those essayists who do their work in the world of high abstractions”, who are never personal and who seldom mention the particular facts of experience. Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays “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. 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.
Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580. For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. 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.
The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate. In France, Michel de Montaigne’s three volume Essais in the mid 1500s contain over 100 examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay. In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano.