Essayists on the Essay

Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time
Edited by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French

“Carl Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French are among the finest commentators of the genre today. Their presentation of the material is compelling and, in my opinion, will be extremely valuable to us all—we teachers, writers, critics, and educated readers who remain devoted to furthering the study of the essay.”—Robert Atwan, series editor, Best American Essays

The first historically and internationally comprehensive collection of its kind, Essayists on the Essay is a pathbreaking work that is nothing less than a richly varied sourcebook for anyone interested in the theory, practice, and art of the essay. This unique work includes a selection of fifty distinctive essays by American, Canadian, English, European, and South American essayists from Montaigne to the present—many of which have not previously been anthologized or translated—as well as a detailed bibliographical and thematic guide to hundreds of additional works about the essay by a wide-ranging group of essayists.

From a buoyant introduction that provides a sweeping historical and analytic overview of essayists’ thinking about their genre—a collective poetics of the essay—to the detailed headnotes offering pointed information about both the essayists themselves and the anthologized selections, to the richly detailed bibliographic sections, Essayists on the Essay is essential to anyone who cares about the form.

This collection provides teachers, scholars, essayists, and readers with the materials they need to take a fresh look at this important, but often overlooked, form that has for too long been relegated to the role of service genre—used primarily to write about other more “literary” genres or teach young people how to write. Here, in a single volume, are four centuries of commentary, theory, poetics, and celebration of the essay. Essayists on the Essay reminds us of the essay’s storied history, its international appeal, and its relationship not just with poetry and fiction but also with radio, film, video, and new media.

“Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French have provided an informative guide to how the genre of the essay has been conceptualized and conventionalized in literary history. As this capacious collection of excerpts demonstrates, no genre has more potential to chart the meandering possibilities of thought in action, especially when the essay thinks itself.”—Charles Bernstein, author, Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions

“At long last, a book that collects critical ideas—from the minds of essay practitioners—about the oft-maligned yet exquisite literary adventure that is the essay. Not only does this anthology document the history of the essay, it also provides guidance, via an extensive annotated bibliography, to the study of this form. Teachers, students, essayists, and essay enthusiasts will want this volume on their shelves. Bravo to Carl Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French for this superb endeavor.”—Kim Dana Kupperman, author, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence