What is an Essay?

Dr. Lewis Leary (1906-1990), former Chairman of the English Department of Columbia University writes, “An essay is an attempt to express a mood or explain an attitude. Most simply, it is a man speaking about what seems to him important or true or at the moment worth saying. Your dictionary will tell you that it is a literary composition, analytical or interpretive, dealing with a subject from a more or less limited or personal standpoint. That, we may say, gives the essayist plenty of room to move around in…  But traditionally the essay has been of moderate length, has been written in prose with intention other than narrative, and has presented a view based on the writer’s thought and experience rather than formal study.”

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