The conclusion being, say, that Ahab in Moby Dick was a Christ-like figure. So I'm going to try to give the other side of the story: what an essay really is, and how you write one. Mods The most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature.Tags: Essay On Child Labour In For Class 10Online Writing WebsitesEssay On Day After TomorrowAn Essay About Why I Prefer To Be SingleHomework Should Be Banned FactsData Mining Thesis PaperWriting A Conference PaperA Midsummer Nights Dream Research PaperObjective Knowledge Tok EssayCritical Essay Spiderman
September 2004Remember the essays you had to write in high school?
Topic sentence, introductory paragraph, supporting paragraphs, conclusion.
The sort of writing that attempts to persuade may be a valid (or at least inevitable) form, but it's historically inaccurate to call it an essay. Trying To understand what a real essay is, we have to reach back into history again, though this time not so far. One can't have quite as little foresight as a river.
To Michel de Montaigne, who in 1580 published a book of what he called "essais." He was doing something quite different from what lawyers do, and the difference is embodied in the name. I always know generally what I want to write about.
But Harvard didn't have a professor of English literature until 1876, and Oxford not till 1885. And so in the late 19th century the teaching of writing was inherited by English professors.
(Oxford had a chair of Chinese before it had one of English.) What tipped the scales, at least in the US, seems to have been the idea that professors should do research as well as teach. The professors who taught math could be required to do original math, the professors who taught history could be required to write scholarly articles about history, but what about the professors who taught rhetoric or composition? This had two drawbacks: (a) an expert on literature need not himself be a good writer, any more than an art historian has to be a good painter, and (b) the subject of writing now tends to be literature, since that's what the professor is interested in. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the National Education Association "formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course."  The 'riting component of the 3 Rs then morphed into English, with the bizarre consequence that high school students now had to write about English literature-- to write, without even realizing it, imitations of whatever English professors had been publishing in their journals a few decades before.Defending a position may be a necessary evil in a legal dispute, but it's not the best way to get at the truth, as I think lawyers would be the first to admit. The real problem is that you can't change the question.And yet this principle is built into the very structure of the things they teach you to write in high school.The time was then ripe for the question: if the study of ancient texts is a valid field for scholarship, why not modern texts?The answer, of course, is that the original raison d'etre of classical scholarship was a kind of intellectual archaeology that does not need to be done in the case of contemporary authors.But for obvious reasons no one wanted to give that answer. The first courses in English literature seem to have been offered by the newer colleges, particularly American ones.The archaeological work being mostly done, it implied that those studying the classics were, if not wasting their time, at least working on problems of minor importance. Dartmouth, the University of Vermont, Amherst, and University College, London taught English literature in the 1820s.That principle, like the idea that we ought to be writing about literature, turns out to be another intellectual hangover of long forgotten origins.It's often mistakenly believed that medieval universities were mostly seminaries. And at least in our tradition lawyers are advocates, trained to take either side of an argument and make as good a case for it as they can. And after the lecture the most common form of discussion was the disputation.This is at least nominally preserved in our present-day thesis defense: most people treat the words thesis and dissertation as interchangeable, but originally, at least, a thesis was a position one took and the dissertation was the argument by which one defended it.