Essay Definition

Here is the dictionary definition of the term “essay”

A short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative. , generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story.



What is the Scholarly Definition of Essay ?

The scholarly and dictionary definitions are similar although scholars place essays between objective research and creativity. For instance, look at the following statement cited from a 2015 article by Adriana Iozzi-Klein and Doris Natia Cavallari –The Prosification of Culture and the Creative Essay of the Twentieth Century: Questions on a Literary Genre 

Essays seems to be a literary genre destined to be perpetuated amongst the chaotic multiplication of writings nowadays. As a genre, however, the essay is, quoting Italian scholar Alfonso Berardinelli, one of the most expressive voices in the current studies regarding this theme; it is “maybe the most mutable and the most intangible of genres, the most exposed to the influence of all other genres, the most passive in its pride, the most impatient in its irresolution (Cavallari & Iozzi-Klein, 2015 )”

How are Essays Classified ?

Historically essay writers have classified essays as either informal or formal.

On the one hand, formal essays are written with a serious purpose, dignity, logical organization and strict length. Informal essays , on the other hand, are characterized by creativity, theme novelty, individual tastes/ self-revelation, individual experiences, unconventionality and humor.

What is the Purpose of an Essay ?

Essays are used for different purposes, most commonly as a literal tool to address public issues, criticize political arguments and to talk about the daily personal experiences of normal people.

In essay writing it is common for writers to use prose form, although some classical essays use verses (for example,An essay on Man by Alexander Pope)

In most European countries and in the U.S, essay writing is an integral element of formal education.  In fact, in the U.S essays are taught right from high school; in college, essay writing is typical and in some universities, essays are used to assess applicants (click here to learn more about  admission essays)

The concept of an “essay” has been extended to other media 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.

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