21 Greatest Essay Writers

21 Greatest Essay Writers

In case you are in a college, it is obvious why the word ‘essay’ sends chills down your spine. As a college assignment, an essay is not always the most pleasant piece of writing because it often makes you analyze and evaluate a topic you haven’t chosen and have no particular interest in. Yet, an essay has an established role in the history of both world literature and American literature. In her article ‘The Rise of the Essay’, Zadie Smith posed a very interesting question: “Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel… ” So, what makes essayists essayists? Why do they choose (voluntarily!) to write essays, these pesky works which annoy so many modern students? It can happen that in essays authors can express all the ideas that bother them at the moment. Creating a great essay is an art because it requires writers to organize their thoughts in a rather short literary form and, nevertheless, do this in a unique, creative manner. Essays reflect writers’ true potential; so, it is understandable why an essay has such a long and interesting history. Let’s see how an American essay has developed over centuries. In this post, we are going to talk about great American writers and their contribution to the establishment of the essay as an independent literary genre.

Colonial Period: Till 1763

The early years of the American literature were far from being independent. It was highly influenced by British authors because the English literature has been established long before the new continent was discovered by Columbus. Yet, already at this point, America had its first essayists such as Samuel Sewall and John Woolman.

Revolutionary Period: 1764 – 1789

Tensions between Britain and the colonies resulted in the War of Independence, or American Revolution, which caused the creation of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Finally, the Americans became independent from Britain. Certainly, the overall revolutionary moods of the country had to influence essay writers significantly. The most famous essayists of this time were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.

Era of Romanticism: 1820 – 1860

This period is defined by increasing desire to produce truly American literature. The most names in the American literature became Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), and Edgar Allan Poe. Just as well as their European colleagues, American writers paid a lot of attention to nature, to a person’s self, to emotions, etc. Such elements as rebellion and heroism were an integral part of the literature of this period. Famous essayists of the Romantic era were:

Era of Realism: 1860 – 1914

This period has very clear boundaries – two great wars that significantly influenced American culture – the Civil War and the World War I. Changes in social life, rapid industrialization and urbanization – all these were major factors that impacted authors’ writing style. Writers wanted to depict life as it was. Here are the most prominent writers of this period:

The Beginning of the 20th Century till Modern Times

The 20th-century American literature gave the world a pleiad of talented authors who were working in a variety of new genres. The 20th (and the 21st) century are characterized by experiments in literature as well as returning to older, classic genres. The most prominent essay writers of this era are as follows:

Obviously, this is not an extensive list of great American essay writers. If you do research, you will definitely find YOUR favorite author. But it is an excellent idea to start with the writers mentioned above and see how the essay has been evolving over centuries. Enjoy!