An essay is usually a short piece of writing which is quite often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. 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.

Essays have become a major part of a formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants and, in the humanities and social sciences, as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams. 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 which focuses more on the evolution of a theme or an idea. A photographic essay is an attempt to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs; it may or may not have an accompanying text or captions.
Contents
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* 1 Definitions
* 2 Etymology
* 3 History
* 4 As a pedagogical tool
* 5 Forms and styles
o 5.1 Descriptive
o 5.2 Narrative
o 5.3 Exemplification
o 5.4 Compare and contrast
o 5.5 Cause and effect
o 5.6 Classification and division
o 5.7 Definition
o 5.8 Dialectic
o 5.9 History (a.k.a. Thesis)
o 5.10 Other logical structures
* 6 Magazine or newspaper
* 7 Employment
* 8 Non-literary types
o 8.1 Visual Arts
o 8.2 Music
o 8.3 Film
o 8.4 Photography
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links

[edit] Definitions

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". [1]

It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. He notes that "Like the novel, the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything, usually on a certain topic. 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". He points out that "a collection of essays can cover almost as much ground, and cover it almost as thoroughly, as can a long novel"--he gives Montaigne's Third Book as an example. Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference". [2]

The three poles are:

* Personal and the autobiographical essays: these use "fragments of reflective autobiography" to "look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description".

* Objective and factual: in these essays, the authors "do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme".

* Abstract-universal: these essays "make the best...of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist".

[3]
Essays of Michel de Montaigne
[edit] Etymology

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 (1533-1592) was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterise these as "attempts" to put his thoughts adequately into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing.[4] 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. Francis Bacon's essays, published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as