The Essays

The Essays-19
Through an essay, a writer presents his argument in a more sophisticated manner.In addition, it encourages students to develop concepts and skills, such as analysis, comparison and contrast, clarity, exposition, conciseness, and persuasion.Whether cause or effect, this spirit pervaded early universities.

Through an essay, a writer presents his argument in a more sophisticated manner.In addition, it encourages students to develop concepts and skills, such as analysis, comparison and contrast, clarity, exposition, conciseness, and persuasion.Whether cause or effect, this spirit pervaded early universities.

But Harvard didn't have a professor of English literature until 1876, and Oxford not till 1885. [3]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.) [2]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." [4] 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.

“As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice.

A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees — the caretaker.

But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature.

And so all over the country students are writing not about how a baseball team with a small budget might compete with the Yankees, or the role of color in fashion, or what constitutes a good dessert, but about symbolism in Dickens.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.Certainly schools should teach students how to write.This idea (along with the Ph D, the department, and indeed the whole concept of the modern university) was imported from Germany in the late 19th century. It's no wonder if this seems to the student a pointless exercise, because we're now three steps removed from real work: the students are imitating English professors, who are imitating classical scholars, who are merely the inheritors of a tradition growing out of what was, 700 years ago, fascinating and urgently needed work.Beginning at Johns Hopkins in 1876, the new model spread rapidly. No Defense The other big difference between a real essay and the things they make you write in school is that a real essay doesn't take a position and then defend it.The author has described the kettle as a human being, and allows readers to feel, as he has felt.The function of an essay depends upon the subject matter, whether the writer wants to inform, persuade, explain, or entertain.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.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.

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