An Essay on Essays by Phillip Lopate


An Essay on Essays by Phillip Lopate


The first book I read from the acclaimed author of the aforementioned essay collection was American Essays. This collection includes writings by Benjamin Franklin, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, and Cotton Mather. Its editor, acclaimed essayist Phillip Lopate, curated this anthology. In the second volume, I read the work of British essayist John Keats. I found this book to be an excellent resource for essays on modern culture, politics, and the human condition.

The essay is a vehicle for iconoclasm and the idler, contemplator, and self-creator. American essayists like J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Sui Sin Far, and Repplier reflect this tradition. As noted in the introduction to An Essay on Essays, “the essay is a form of prose that rewards the idler, the contemplative, and the self-creator.”

The collection includes essays from Colonial times to the present, covering a wide range of topics, including religion, aesthetics, landscape, love, and sexuality. Lopate provides a good introduction to each essay, introducing each writer’s work. The collection also includes essays by lesser-known writers, including St. John Crevecoeur, and works by Frederick Douglass and Jane Addams. As a result, it’s a well-rounded guide to America’s most daring prose.

Phillip Lopate compiled The Glorious American Essay with 100 essays from colonial times to the present day. Lopate defined an essay as a “record of thought” and a bellwether for modern society. The collection spans nearly three centuries, but “colonial” times are barely represented in the book, while dates clump together after World War I. It is also hard to tell how much time has passed since Lopate published The Glorious American Essay.

Essays are an important literary form, and the essays of America are the best examples. Although the transition from magazines to the internet has made the essay different, a good essay is still an important literary form. Well-written essays have the potential to generate public commentary and gain the author notoriety. This collection introduces the reader to a rich variety of American writing and literary thought. There are no shortage of essays to choose from, and this book is a fine place to start.

Early American writers struggled to create a recognizable national culture. By the mid-nineteenth century, the American Renaissance is no longer characterized by a lack of confidence, but by oppression of blacks and women. The tradition of nature writing, from Thoreau to Audubon, from Rachel Carson to Annie Dillard, shows how marginalized groups use the essay to assert their sense of identity and belonging. With such a rich history of essays, these texts are important for understanding American culture.

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