Getty Images – Archive photos | PhotoQuest
I write essays to clear my mind.
– Taiye Selasi
Certainly, Ms. Selasi did not speak about academic essay writer’s block in particular, but essay writers block in general. Have you ever thought how essay writers could influence other people, and how important they could be for events’ coverage in history?
Thanks to these people we have a chance to learn interesting facts and understand the world around us better, and thanks to their works we perfectly know what sources to use as references when we write our academic papers.
A writer’s profession is among the most ancient ones. Great essay writers have been working since the early days of American history, and we can be proud of this fact for sure. Each period of our history has its own famous essay writers, and their works are a great example of what a power words have and how beautiful our speech can be when we express our thoughts consistently and concisely.
Let’s take a look at the brightest representatives of American essayists from the different historical periods and check their most famous essays to understand their originality and importance better.
Early American and Colonial Period: to 1776
A revolutionary spirit was in the air then. So, it is not surprising that this theme is perfectly displayed in all works of famous essay authors of that time. They wrote about laws they considered unjust, they described slavery and were against of it, they criticized authorities and their policy, they disagreed with aristocrats, and they warned what the circumstances of such a situation could be.
It was the period of colonial and revolutionary literature, and the greatest representatives of American essayists there were:
- Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and his work Of Youth and Age, Of Truth, Of Studies, Of Revenge, Of Parents and Children, Of Marriage and Single Life, Of Discourse
- Samuel Sewall (1652 – 1730) and his work The Selling of Joseph (1700)
- John Woolman (1720-1772) and his two essays Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes (1754 and 1762)
Democratic Origins and Revolutionary Writers: 1776-1820
The triumph of American independence influenced the moods and literature of those times. It was a period of early national literature, when essays by famous authors described antislavery, democratic sensibility, American exceptionalism, support of the Constitution, American generations, and relations between England and America.
Moreover, this is the time when essay writers pay publishers to see their works live. Writers perfectly know what hooks to use for their essays, and they have no doubts as for their works’ topicality, informational content, utility, and uniqueness. The best and well-known essayists of that period are:
- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and his works Advice on the Choice of a Mistress, The Art of Procuring Pleasant Dreams, The Temple of Learning, The Whistle
- Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and his two works: Common Sense (1776), The American Crisis (1783)
- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and his The Declaration of Independence
- Washington Irving (1783-1859) and his The Mutability of Literature (1820)
Romantic Period : 1820–1860
This very period is called the American Renaissance, as it was inspired by the Romantic movement originated in Germany but spread to other European countries, such as England and France. The writing representatives here were both poets and essayists, as well as fiction authors, and their ideas centered around spirit, organic growth, inspiration, and the importance of art for society in general and individual in particular.
The major theme for every essayist of romantic age was self-development. A man should express himself and find ways for self-awareness and self-expression. The development of society is impossible to imagine without arts. Self and nature are one. Every essayist of romantic period found himself obligatory to describe similar moods in his works.
The names of famous essayists of that period are well-known today:
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): Gifts, Self-Reliance, The Poet
- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894): The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table
- Margaret Fuller (1810-1850): Papers on Literature and Art
- Joseph Dennie (1768-1812): Jack and Gill: A Mock Criticism
- Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906): On Women’s Right to Vote
- Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849): The Philosophy of Furniture
- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895): The Destiny of Colored Americans
The Rise of Realism: 1860-1914
As far as you understand, all those romantic moods could not last forever. 1860 was a year when realism had come back home and started to flourish in full. Famous essay writers of those times were inspired by the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), and the period of innocent optimism gave its way to a period of total exhaustion.
This is a period of America’s transformation into a huge and strong industrial nation. All these themes (a war, a person’s and nation’s strength, industrialization, urbanization, and alienation) find their output in many books, articles, and essays. Every famous essayist quotes were known by heart and cited, as they perfectly knew how to write an essay that would really work. The greatest works of that time were:
- Mark Twain (1835-1910): Advice to Youth, The Danger of Lying in Bed, On the Decay of the Art of Lying
- W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963): Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others
- Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888): Death of a Soldier (1863)
- Henry Adams (1838-1918): A Law of Acceleration (1907)
- A. Bronson Alcott (1799-1888): “Exercise” essay collection Table-Talk (1877)
- Mary Austin (1868-1934): The Land of Little Rain (1903)
Modernism and Experimentation: 1914-1945
Gertrude Stein, a well-known literary portraitist, has called young people of that time “the lost generation”; and we all know and remember writers of that time on this definition. This period between two world wars had been quite traumatic for American youths, as they were disillusioned with wars, did not like aristocrats, wanted to achieve something special in their lives… Such moods found the output in fiction works and essays of that time.
Writers and essayists were influenced by the Depression as well. They experimented with their writing forms, trying to express their points of view in quite unusual but still catchy and meaningful ways. The names of notional authors and essayists of this time are known by everyone today, and their works can be a great example for those people who want to become successful writers:
- Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961): The Snows of Kilimanjaro
- William Faulkner (1897-1962): The Sound and the Fury
- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): What I Think and Feel at 25
- George Ade (1866-1944): Luxuries 1922
American Essay Writers of Postwar Period
Essay writers of 1945-1990 were very reflexive. They observed everything that happened around them, described it and commented on it. Essays of that time have a really big value for us, as they help understand the nature, moods and development of Americans in the postwar period.
As oral genres become more popular and influential now, essayists use speeches, movies, songs to understand situation and people’s moods better and do their best to express them in writings. The literature of that time was extremely multifaceted, as it was influenced by Latin American realism and European existentialism. Such strong personalities as Nelson Mandela with his writings also gave American essay writers food for their works:
- Norman Mailer (1923-2007): The White Negro
- John McPhee (1931-present): The Search for Marvin Gardens
- Joan Didion (1934-present): The White Album
- Edward Hoagland (1932-present): Heaven and Nature
More names of the most famous essays’ authors of that time can be found here.
Contemporary American Essayists
Modern essayists are brave enough to challenge old ideas and adapt them to suit today’s quickly changing world. The fact Americans are one of the most diverse nations influences the writing moods much. Such themes as religion, feminism and post-feminism, various social issues, etc. get their new life now.
The Internet gives a way to a short story’s development. This genre becomes more and more popular: people do not want (and do not have) to spend much time on reading and analyzing long manuscripts, and most of them prefer quick reading online. Such a tendency helped many novice writers declare themselves by simple sharing of their short stories with online audience.
The best representatives of modern essayists are (all they can be found in the list of top 10 contemporary essayists to check):
- Marilynne Robinson: When I Was a Child I Read Books
- John Jeremiah Sullivan: Pulphead
- Stephen King: Great Hookers I Have Known
- Sarah Vowell: The Partly Cloudy Patriot
- David Shields: Reality Hunger
As we can see, the term “essay writing” does not come to college application essay writer’s block only. The best essay writers of all time try to share their thoughts and views for us, readers, to learn the world around us better. Taking a look throughout American history, each of us can understand the importance of these people’s work and their influence on general moods in society.
Keep reading and examining American essay writers, and who knows… Maybe you will have a chance to join them and become an influential and popular essayist one day.
By Lesley Vos, a staff blogger and essay proofreader, who is a big fan of reading as well. You are welcome to join her on Facebook or Google+.
They say that there are the writers a separate universe in which they can produce, create their work. An ordinary person is not given the opportunity to know the deep writer’s life, but even every day we see a new crowd of people who stand in line for a new book. Everyone expects a miracle, take a new book with the hope that something wonderful, inexplicably beautiful, willing to drown in a completely different world, a world of fantasies and dreams, which appears to the reader in the next bought book in the various forms: essays, novels, stories, poem.
Today we are going to talk about the famous essay writers. ESSAY (fran. Essai) it is the literary form of small prose text, which express emphasize the author’s individuality. In relief, to the story, the writer’s essay’s facility is to communicate or interpret, but not ever a picture or a histrionic retelling of any life position. The work reaches its purpose through the outright copyright approvals, which do not take the perpetration of no one fictional personage or the plot of a binder. Nevertheless, there is not any hardly absolute difference between different types of essays and short stories. The main essay’s feature is its brevity, it usually takes from ten up to twenty pages.
There are a great amount of interesting, fascinating works, essays, literary works, which were written by the great world famous authors and writers. More than three centuries ago, the first essay was published at first. Now, we can find a lot of essays in libraries or have an easy possibility to order by the Internet miscellanea of works written by well-known authors from all the world from different centuries. Ever since ancient times, essays were published in magazines, books, were grouped by theme, genre, years, and the authors. Details included a variety of genres, among which are comedy, non-fiction, romance, instructive, historical facts, life stories, and current events. There are many authors and essays (detailed list you can read below), and it was difficult to identify the most important and well-known essayists of all time.
The list, about which I have mentioned earlier, includes writers from different backgrounds and periods of history. Some of they are still currently continuing to write. Because this fact, it is nothing surprising in the fact that essay remains a popular literary format. And the authors, who can quickly, briefly, concisely and interesting tell the story will always be on top. Edusson, the Essay Writing Service company, selected essayists, but not essays. Because, the best essays are only personal, authorial and deep engaged with author’s issues, internal feelings and ideas.
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Baldwin grew up in a family of his stepfather, a priest, where he was the eldest of nine children. His own father, Baldwin have never known and was very suffered from that, which was reflected in some of his works (“Tell me when the train left”, “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, “Giovanni’s Room” and others. After Bronx high school graduating, Baldwin moved to Greenwich Village, where he began his literary career.
Greenwich Village has always been considered one of the most deprived New York areas, caused a wave of optimism in Baldwin’s source, who started to write about his views and understandings of what is happening around him. His first journalistic articles, essays were imbued with the spirit of racism denial which was prevailing in America at that times. That negative attitude makes young writer move Paris.
Baldwin felt like he caught a breath of fresh air in France, have been saving there from the racist and homophobic America of 40-th. XX century. His main works were written on the banks of the Seine, and there Baldwin have spent the most of his life, producing his creations among which are next well-known essays:
- James Baldwin and his popular essays published in 1956 “Notes of a Native Son” essays;
- James Baldwin and his book of interesting essays named “The Devil Finds Work” which was presented to the mass in 1976;
- James Baldwin and his “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” (essays; 1985);
- James Baldwin and his list of essays created in the romantic atmosphere of 85th with the strange name “The Price of the Ticket”;
Norman Mailer (1923-2007)
Norman Mailer was born in New Jersey in the Jewish immigrants family. He was the first child in the family, and after him, there was also two children - a brother and sister. Norman grew up in New York, and in 1939 decided to become a student of Harvard university, where he have fallen in love with literary activity. His first story was published at the age of 18, in 1941. The University of Harvard received young author the university magazine award. Among the entire set of his works we would like to highlight the most famous essays:
- Norman Mailer and his New York book of essays called in the world as “The Presidential Papers”;
- Norman Mailer and his second New York creation which is known by the loud name “Cannibals and Christians”;
- Norman Mailer and his “Pieces and Pontifications” in which the author opens the deep world of Little Boston’s Life.
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
Susan Sontag was born in New York, 16 January 1933 year. Since her childhood, the friends of hers were always only booked. In 1952 Sontag’s family have moved to Boston where Sontag passed entry exams to Harvard University. There young writer studied English literature and received a Master of Philosophy in 1954. While have been studying at Oxford in 1955-1957, she has faced with the sexism challenge, and because of this soon moved to Paris. From that time she was actively engaged in the French cinema, philosophy and wrote a lot. Among her essay collection we can emphasize the nest ones: “Against Interpretation”, “Where the Stress Falls”, “Regarding the Pain of Others Styles of Radical Will”.
Joan Didion (1934-present)
Joan Didion was born and grew up in Sacramento, California. She was just a five-year-old little girl when she have begun to write her first string. She read everything she could get into her hands while the parents were not home. In 1956, she graduated from the University of Berkeley and got their Bachelor Degree in Arts and English language. Within her senior years, Joan won the first place in an essay writing inworld-known Vogue magazine. She created own first work which was named “Run” and issued in 1963 has been working there in Vogue. Among her essays work we want to mention the next ones:
- Joan Didion and her “Joan Didion” essays works;
- Joan Didion and her “Salvador”;
- Joan Didion and her essays about Earth planet called “After Henry” (twelve geographical essays);
Annie Dillard (1945-present)
Annie Dillard was born in 1945 and is already alive to present us a lot of her magnificent works. Anni is an American author. She was always well-known for her clear story prose in both nonfiction/fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism and etc. Among her essays Edusson want to emphasize the next ones:
- “Education stone”, the book of short nonfiction essays;
- “Life on the rocks”, the book of 14 essays: Total Eclipse, In the Jungle, The Deer at Providencia, A Field of Silence, On a Hill Far Away, God in the Doorway, Mirage's, Aces and Eights);
Robert Atwan (1940- present)
Robert Atwan was born in 1940, November 2, in New Jersey. He graduated from 2 universities: Seton Hall and Rutgers. He is known as one of the best American essay writers. Among the entire set of his works we highlighted the most famous ones:
- “Great Moments in Literary Baseball”, on the basis of the first game of the season;
- “Poems and Essays”, essays about Autumn and Winter (Snowy essays);
Edward Hoagland (1932- present)
Edward Hoagland is an American writer, who was born in 1932, in New York. Since his childhood, he was fond of writing, literature and from that time, he decided to become a novelist, essayist. He has a huge number of essays, the whole list of which you can find here, and we will mention in our article just a little part of it:
- “The Big Cats”, written in 1961;
- “Why this Extra Violence” in April;
- “The Soul of the Tiger” written when he has fallen in love for the first time;
- “Big Frog, Very Small Pond”, unknown data;
- “A World Worth Saving and Christmas Observed”, written in 1989;
- “Two Kinds of People” which was published just in Europe;
- “Last Call”, 2010, a very interesting one;
- “On Friendship”, which he wrote in 2013, when he was already a deep old man.
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)
David Foster Wallace was born in 1968 in the USA.He has graduated the little-known college, where he studied philosophy, there got a degree in English language and literature. For many years, he experienced severe bouts of depression.
in June 2007, according to the doctor recommendations David stopped taking medication. Depression particularly increased In the last months of his life. On September 12, 2008, he committed suicide.There some of this essays:
- David Foster and his essay “Television and U.S. Fiction”, (an interesting and comic essays book);
- David Foster and his essays book named “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley”;
- David Foster and his “A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again” and “Consider the Lobster”, which were both published in 2005;
- David Foster and his “Both Flesh and Not” unknown date of publication.
So we see, that the concept “essay” goes beyond the simple students essays writing in college. The best and well-known writers from all over the world created a lot of essays to share with readers their ideas and feelings. Continue to read and study the world of famous essay writers, and perhaps, in one day you will have the chance to become a popular essayist too.
Read more Types of essays articles: