Modern traditions of the essay

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Laurie L. White (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Walter H. Beale

Abstract: Critical interest in the essay as a genre has increased in recent years with the rise of non-fiction studies focusing on the essay as literary art. The argument of this dissertation is that the essay is best seen as a form of rhetoric, and Walter Beale’s theory of discourse provides a theoretical model for this view. Categorizing the essay as rhetorical accounts for the sermonic aim of the form and its protean nature. The essay's rhetorical aim is connected with the spirit of skepticism which has informed it from its inception. Both Montaigne and Bacon were skeptics, although their anti-dogmatism took different forms. Too, skepticism has been associated with rhetorical practice since Cicero. The weighing of probabilities, the willing suspension of judgment, and the examination of different sides of a question are the characteristics of rhetoricians and skeptics. They are the characteristics, too, of the essay which is, by name and reputation, only a "try," not a system.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1987
Exposition (Rhetoric)

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