Literary Essay – Concept, parts and example

We explain what a literary essay is and how to do one. In addition, the parts that compose it and an example of this type of test.

Literary essay
A literary essay is a subjective, personal and rigorous approach to the subject to be discussed.

What is a literary essay?

A literary essay, sometimes referred to simply as an essay, is a short, prose dissertation that analyzes or reflects on a subject of free choice and approach by the author. It is considered one of the literary genres, along with narrative, poetry and dramaturgy, heir to didactics and therefore related to teaching.

The essays can be diverse and varied, since it is a subjective and personal approach, although rigorous, of the matter to be treated. This means that has opinions and arguments of the author, but supported by logic, information and sensibilities. Its purpose is none other than to argue around the chosen topic.

Regarding its dimensions, the test is usually relatively short, didactically organized to gradually approach the subject, making use of the stylistic and literary resources of the language to give poetic and argumentative force to their ideas.

Therefore, an essay should not be confused with a monograph or a technical document (such as a thesis). The topics addressed by the essay are virtually endless: from politics, society and knowledge, to sports, the arts or one’s own imagination.

There have been great essayist thinkers throughout history, who made this genre one of the main illustrated vehicles for the communication and debate of ideas, especially in times prior to the massification of information. Some important names in this regard are those of Aristotle (384-322 BC), Yoshida Kenkö (1283-1350), Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), José Ortega y Gasset (1883- 1955), among many others.

How to make a literary essay?

Literary essay
An essay should address a topic a topic in a way that generates interest.

There are no steps to write an essay, since it involves a literary genre and requires artistic expertise, documentation, and talent. Even so, as the essay has been closely linked to the educational apparatus of many countries, its writing could be simplified to the elaboration of a school essay, as follows:

  • Choice of theme. An essay should address a topic or edge of a topic in a way that generates interest and, if possible, passion. In addition, it should not be as broad a topic, but as limited as possible.
  • Documentation. Once the topic has been chosen, we will have to document ourselves, that is, read about it from different sources, to get a more complete idea about the subject.
  • Preparation. Before writing, it is convenient to make an outline of ideas that will serve as the script or skeleton of the essay, telling us in what order to approach each idea or argument.
  • Drafting. Proceed to write according to the script, which means exposing the ideas as clearly as possible and in the most logical order possible, then rereading the entire text and correcting the writing, making sure that it says what it is intended to say.

Parts of a literary essay

The structure of an essay is extremely free, since it is a text that values ​​the discussion on the subject and whose main value is to argue and reflect freely, at the whim of the writer. However, in its systematic study, three forms of structure can be identified in very broad strokes, which are:

  • Analyzing or deductive. First, he presents the thesis or the topic to be addressed, and then develops the arguments related to the subject.
  • Synthesizing or inductive. It explores the arguments and data in the first instance, and then from them rebuilds the topic as a final conclusion.
  • Framed. The more scholarly structure begins with the presentation of the thesis or the topic, then debates the arguments and positions, and finally re-elaborates the thesis taking into consideration what was found in the middle.

Literary essay example

As an example, a fragment of the essay “Literature and the right to death” (1949) by Maurice Blanchot.

“(…) Let us admit that literature begins at the moment when literature is a question. This question is not to be confused with the doubts or scruples of the writer. If he comes to question himself writing, his business; That he is absorbed in what he writes and indifferent to the possibility of writing it, that he does not even think about anything, it is his right and that is how he is happy.

But this remains: once written, the question is present on that page that, perhaps without knowing it, has not stopped asking the writer when he was writing; and now, in the work, awaiting the proximity of a reader –of any reader, deep or vain– the same interrogation rests in silence, directed to language, behind the man who writes and reads, by language made literature.

It is possible to dismiss this concern that literature has for itself as fatuous. He insists on speaking to literature about his nothingness, his lack of seriousness, his bad faith; in this lies precisely the abuse that is accused. It is presented as important, considering itself an object of doubt. It confirms despising itself. Wanted: it does more than it should. Well, maybe it’s one of those things that deserves to be found, but not to be sought. “