On Essays: Montaigne to the Present

ISBN : 9780192848611

Thomas Karshan; Kathryn Murphy
400 ページ
156 x 234 mm

Montaigne called it a ramble; Chesterton the joke of literature; and Hume an ambassador between the worlds of learning and of conversation. But what is an essay, and how did it emerge as a literary form? What are the continuities and contradictions across its history, from Montaigne's 1580 Essais through the familiar intimacies of the Romantic essay, and up to more recent essayists such as Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and Claudia Rankine? Sometimes called the fourth genre, the essay has been over-shadowed in literary history by fiction, poetry, and drama, and has proved notoriously resistant to definition. On Essays reveals in the essay a pattern of paradox: at once a pedagogical tool and a refusal of the methodical languages of universities and professions; politically engaged but retired and independent; erudite and anti-pedantic; occasional and enduring; intimate and oratorical; allusive and idiosyncratic. Perhaps because it is a form of writing against which literary scholarship has defined itself, there has been surprisingly little work on the tradition of the essay. Neither a comprehensive history nor a student companion, On Essays is a series of seventeen elegantly written essays on authors and aspects in the history of the genre - essays which, taken together, form the most substantial book yet published on the essay in Britain and America.


Thomas Karshan and Kathryn Murphy: Introduction: On the difficulty of introducing a work of this kind
1 Thomas Karshan: What is an Essay? Thirteen Answers from Virginia Woolf
2 Warren Boutcher: The Montaignian Essay and Authored Miscellanies from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century
3 Kathryn Murphy: Of Sticks and Stones: The Essay, Experience, and Experiment
4 Markman Ellis: Time and the Essay: The Spectator and Diurnal Fomr
5 Fred Parker: The Sociable Philosopher: David Hume and the Philosophical Essay
6 Scott Black: Tristram Shandy, Essayist
7 Denise Gigante: On Coffee Houses, Smoking, and the English Essay Tradition
8 Gregory Dart: The Romantic Essay and the City
9 Felicity James: Charles Lamb, Elia, and Essays in Familiarity
10 Tom Wright: Carlyle, Emerson, and the Voiced Essay
11 Ophelia Field: Retiring or Engaging: Politics in the English Essay
12 Stefano Evangelista: Things Said By The Way: Walter Pater and the Essay
13 Bharat Tandon: 'Strips of Essayism': Eliot, Hardy, and the Victorian Periodical Essay
14 Michael Wood: Rational Distortions: Essays in the British Novel After Borges
15 Ned Stuckey-French: Creative Non-Fiction and the Lyric Essay: The American Essay in the Twenty-First Century
16 Adam Phillips: Up To A Point: The Psychoanalyst and the Essay
17 Christy Wampole: Dali's Montaigne: Essay Hybrids and Surrealist Practice


Thomas Karshan has been a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard, a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford, and Leverhulme Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. He served from 2019 to 2020 as President of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society and is the author of Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play (OUP, 2011), the editor of Nabokov's Collected Poems (Penguin / Knopf 2012), and the co-translator, with Anastasia Tolstoy, of Nabokov's verse-play The Tragedy of Mister Morn (Penguin / Knopf 2012). He is now a Senior Lecturer in Literature and University Teaching Fellow at the University of East Anglia, where he teaches modules on modernism, nonsense, play, parody, and consciousness. He has a keen interest in creative-critical writing and teaching, and as such serves on the board of the Beyond Criticism book series and is the editor of the Beyond Criticism website. ; Kathryn Murphy is Fellow in English Literature at Oriel College, and Associate Professor in the Faculty of English, University of Oxford. Her academic work focuses on Renaissance poetry and philosophy, and on the literary essay. She is also a critic and essayist, writing regularly about still life painting for Apollo Magazine, and reviewing Czech literature for the TLS. She is currently writing two books: The Tottering Universal: Metaphysical Prose in the Seventeenth Century; and Robert Burton: A Vital Melancholy, a study of distraction, attention, and The Anatomy of Melancholy.