The Essay: Short Prose, Amphibious Form, Cultural Institution

Hello and welcome to ‘The Essay’, an experimental English literature course at the Department of English and American Studies, University of Hamburg

The genre of the essay is an institution in British public and academic life. This course explores its origins in the 16th century and the unfolding essayistic tradition up to the present. We read essays by Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Richard Steele, Joseph Addison, David Hume, Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Harriet Martineau, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Hilary Mantel, Michael Foot, Geoff Dyer, and Zadie Smith. Because of the essay’s characteristic attempt to submit learning, experience, and opinion to public discourse through aesthetic means, we pay particular attention to the literary styles of these writers. Students then experiment creatively with the genre, and thus join its tradition, by composing their own essays on topics of their choice. You can read them below – just click on the file. Thanks, and enjoy!


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