The essay (plural: essays ), also: Essai (rarely the essay ) is a witty essay, be considered in the scientific, cultural or social phenomena. At the center of the personal analysis of the author stands with its respective topic. The criteria of scientific methodology can be neglected; So the author has relatively great freedom.

Essays are also among the journalistic forms. Similar types of text, sometimes used interchangeably, are Causerie, commentary, column, treatise, essay and journalistic comment and editorial.

The transition between essay and aphorism is fluid: " The essay is the big brother of the aphorism ".


The French word essai comes from the Latin word exagium. Both mean ( ed) "test, test ".


The essay as a literary form or genre goes back to the French author Michel de Montaigne ( 1533-1592 ). Montaigne developed the essay from the Adagia of Erasmus of Rotterdam. What was initially a collection of sayings, aphorisms and wisdom, Montaigne provides now with comments and criticism. He reported on his experience against the scholastic claim to absoluteness.

Montaigne occurs as a Questioner on, after the response ( s) investigated ( and ultimately they will not find ). A good essay raises new questions and / or outlining a new problem. Findings and claims are often carried out so far that the reader associate itself and can be regarded as their own thoughts ( suggestions ), not as a dogmatic doctrine.

Montaigne's commitment to subjectivity and his doubts about the existence of absolute truth contradicted the then official doctrine of the Vatican. The Vatican published in 1559 for the first time an index Librorum Prohibitorum; Montaigne's essays ( " Les Essais " ) were 1676 (ie 84 years after his death) put on the Index.

His successor, the Englishman Francis Bacon, advanced the genre of the essay towards a didactic, moralizing form of deductive reasoning; subsequently leveled the essay between these two orientations. Thus, the essay also a popular literary form of moralists and philosophers of the Enlightenment.

The encyclopedist adapted the original literary- philosophical form a scientific style. In contrast to the treatise or scientific treatise omitted an essay on objective evidence and definitive answers.

Pointed In his book, CV III Walter Benjamin 's essay as follows: " Your task is to promote the integration process of science [ ... ] by an analysis of the work of art, an integral, after neither side territorially -limitative expression in him the religious, metaphysical, recognizes the political, economic tendencies of an epoch. "


The essay method is an experimental way to approach the subject of reflection and looking at it from different perspectives. The most important thing is not the object of the considerations, but also on developing the idea before the reader's eyes.

Many essays are characterized by a certain lightness, stylistic sophistication, clarity and humor. Each new concept is introduced and presented. Actions are told chronologically and in quotes clearly; but he is usually exempt from many citations, footnotes and asides. Sometimes it is simply a stylized, aestheticized chat.

While the author is held to scientific analysis systematically and comprehensively portray his subject, an essay is written rather dialectically with rigor in the methodology, but not in the scheme. Essays are thought experiments, interpretations - at ease, often random translucent. For an essay can convince he should be in the thoughts sharp, clear in form and supple in style (see also the level of language, style, rhetorical figure ).