Essay Index Reprint Series Pepito

Known by the nickname Pepito, José Costa y Bonells is identified by the inscription on the lower left. He was one of the three children of Rafael Costa de Quintana, a prominent physician in Spain at the turn of the nineteenth century. Rafael served in the Ejército de la Izquierda under the marqués de la Romana, was subsequently General Superintendent of Public Health (Superintendente General de Salud Pública) in Cádiz, from 1810 Médico de Cámara, and a year after was nominated minister in the Tribunal del Protomedicato Supremo. He was the author of a popular medical publication, the Curso de Anatomia. Costa lived in a house in Calle del Desengaño in Madrid, the same in which Goya had lived between 1779 and 1782 and in 1800. Pepito’s mother was the daughter of another distinguished physician, Jaime Bonells, who had been the family doctor to the Duke of Alba. Her name is uncertain and she is described by the sources as Fernanda or Amalia Bonells y Mas (for the issue of her name, see Sullivan 1983). She was also portrayed by Goya; the painting is now in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Pepito had a brother, Ignacio, and sister, Rafaela. She married the painter Antonio Brugada, who was a friend and disciple of Goya in Bordeaux, and was also the author of the inventory of Goya’s belongings after his death in 1828 (for the most up to date account of the Costa family see Maurer 2008).

The last two numbers on the date in the inscription here are illegible, and the painting has therefore been variously dated between 1804 and 1818. It is likely, however, to have been painted around 1810, at a time when Goya also portrayed other children, such as Victor Guye (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and his own grandson Mariano Goya (private collection).

Pepito is depicted wearing an outfit with military connotations. His hair is shaped in the Napoleonic fashion, and next to him are a toy drum and rifle with a bayonet. He holds with his left hand a hobbyhorse, in reference to dismounted equestrian portraits, popular at the time with royal and military figures. These attributes surely refer to the Spanish War of Independence (1808–14), and Pepito has been described as "a child of the war years" (Wilson-Bareau 1996).

The sitter married Antonia Bayo y Henry, and the couple had one child who died in infancy. They subsequently adopted their niece, Matilde de Quesada y Bayo, later Countess of Gondomar, who was the daughter of Antonia’s sister. This portrait was inherited by Matilde, who sold it in 1904 to the Galerie Trotti, Paris. Before the painting was sold, the family commissioned a copy of it from the artist Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz. Pepito’s portrait reached New York in 1906, with Knoedler, and it then passed through four American private collections, those of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York (1906–17), Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh (1918), Mr. and Mrs. Morton F. Plant, New York (1918–29) and finally that of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams (1929–61), New York and Paris. It was Harrison Williams’s widow, Mona, later Countess Bismarck, who bequeathed the painting to the MMA in 1961.

[Xavier F. Salomon 2012]

Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower left): Pepito Costa y Bonells / Por Goya. 18[ ]

José Costa y Bonells (until d. 1870); his niece, Matilde de Quesada y Bayo, Countess of Gondomar (1870–1904); [Galerie Trotti, Paris, until 1906; sold to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York and London, 1906; sold to Simpson]; Mr. and Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York (1906–17); [Knoedler, New York, 1917–18]; Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh (1918; sold to Knoedler ); [Knoedler, New York, 1918; sold for $90,000 to Plant]; Mr. and Mrs. Morton F. Plant, New York (until his d. in 1918); Mrs. Morton F. Plant, later Mrs. William Hayward, New York (1918–29); [Knoedler, New York, 1929]; Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams, New York (1929–until his d. in 1953); Mrs. Harrison Williams, Paris, later Mona, Countess Bismarck (1953–61)

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by El Greco and Goya," January 1915, no. 18.

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "A Loan Exhibition of Sixteen Masterpieces," January 6–18, 1930, no. 11.

New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Goya," April 9–21, 1934, no. 13 (as "Pepito Costa y Bonello," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Goya in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 12–December 31, 1995, unnumbered cat.

Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Goya: 250 aniversario," March 30–June 2, 1996, no. 140.

Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 29.

Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 23.

Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Goya en tiempos de guerra," April 14–July 13, 2008, no. 48.

"A Portrait of a Boy by Goya." Burlington Magazine 10 (October 1906), p. 54, ill. p. 55, as with Knoedler & Co., dated 1804.

Albert F. Calvert. Goya, an Account of His Life and Works. London, 1908, pls. 161, 163 (overall and detail), as "Portrait of a Boy".

Loan Exhibition of Paintings by El Greco and Goya. Exh. cat., New York M. Knoedler & Co. New York, 1915, p. 21, no. 18, as "Pepito Costa y Bonells," dated 1804, from the collection of "Countess Uda [sic for Vda] de Gandomar [sic], Madrid".

Arts & Decoration 5 (March 1915), ill. on cover.

A. de Beruete y Moret. Goya: Pintor de retratos. Madrid, 1916, pp. 126–27, 180, no. 254, pl. 47 [English ed., 1922, pp. 153–54, 214, no. 263, pl. 49], as "Pepito Corte"; notes that the date is so worn that it is difficult to say whether it reads 1813 or 1818, although it seems to be 1813 and the inscription and signature appear to be of a later date; calls its authenticity indisputable and locates it "outside of Spain".

August L. Mayer. Francisco de Goya. Munich, 1923, pp. 87, 190, no. 243, pl. 237 [English ed., 1924, pp. 68, 153, no. 243, pl. 237], as "Pepito Corte (Costa?) y Bonella," dated "1813 (or 1818?)," and in the collections of Andrew Mellon and later Mrs. William Haywood [sic]; doubts the authenticity of the signature.

A. de Beruete y Moret. Conferencias de arte. Madrid, 1924, p. 296, identifies Pepito as the son of a "doctor friend" of Goya.

Francisco Zapater y Gómez. Colección de cuatrocientas cuarenta y nueve reproducciones de cuadros, dibujos y aguafuertes de Don Francisco de Goya . . . publicadas por Don Francisco Zapater y Gómez en 1860. Madrid, 1924, pl. 148.

Tomás G. Larraya. Goya: Su vida, sus obras. Barcelona, 1928, p. 191, as in the Haywood [sic] collection, New York.

X. Desparmet Fitz-Gerald. L'oeuvre peint de Goya: Catalogue raisonné. Paris, 1928–50, vol. 2, pp. 173, 322, 331, no. 460, pl. 380, reads the date as 1808; states that the copy was made in 1906, before the original was sold [see Notes]; as in the collection of Harrison Williams, New York.

R. Gómez de la Serna. Goya. Madrid, [1928], p. 277.

Esther Singleton. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, p. 272, ill. p. 271.

Ella S. Siple. "Art in America—Messrs. Knoedler's Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 55 (December 1929), pp. 331–32, pl. 3a.

"Old Masters in New York Galleries." Parnassus 2 (January 1930), pp. 3–4.

Harry Adsit Bull. "Notes of the Month." International Studio 95 (January 1930), p. 58, ill. p. 59.

A Loan Exhibition of Sixteen Masterpieces. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co. New York, 1930, p. 25, no. 11, ill. n.p., as dated 1804.

Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Thirty-Five Portraits from American Collections." Art News 29, no. 33 (May 16, 1931), p. 4, ill. n.p.

Helen Comstock. "Loan Exhibition of Goya's Paintings." Connoisseur 93 (May 1934), p. 333.

Ella S. Siple. "A Goya Exhibition in America." Burlington Magazine 64 (June 1934), p. 287.

"Field Notes: Important Goya Show at Knoedler's." American Magazine of Art 27 (May 1934), p. 280, ill. p. 281.

Leonardo Estarico. Francisco de Goya: El hombre y el artista. Buenos Aires, 1942, p. 270, pl. 145, as dated 1813 or 1818.

Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Ex Collection Knoedler." Art News 45 (November 1946), p. 38, ill., dates it 1804.

Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. Antecedentes, coincidencias e influencias del arte de Goya: Catalogo ilustrado de la exposicion celebrada en 1932. Madrid, 1947, pp. 178, 276.

F. J. Sánchez Cantón in "Los niños en las obras de Goya." Goya (Cinco estudios). Saragossa, 1949, pp. 85–86 [reprinted, 2nd ed., 1978], dates it 1813, the year that Pepito's grandfather, Jaime Bonells, died; notes an element of sadness in this picture, which he knows only from a photograph.

F. J. Sanchez Canton. Vida y obras de Goya. Madrid, 1951, pp. 104, 171, pl. 72, is inclined to date it 1813 rather than 1818.

Valentín de Sambricio. "La exposición bordelesa de Goya, en Madrid." Seminario de arte aragones 4 (1952), p. 21, as dated 1813; identifies the sitter's parents as Fernanda Bonells and Rafael Costa.

F. M. Godfrey. Child Portraiture from Bellini to Cézanne. London, 1956, p. 45, pl. 86.

Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 174, no. 1045, reads the date in the inscription as 1808 (he notes that Mayer [Ref. 1923] considered the inscription apocryphal).

Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. Goya and His Sitters: A Study of His Style as a Portraitist. New York, 1964, p. 28, discusses it in the context of Goya's portrait of Pepito's mother, identified as Fernanda Bonells (Detroit Institute of Arts).

Xavier de Salas. "Los retratos de la familia Costa." Archivo español de arte 38 (January–March 1965), pp. 64–65, identifies Pepito's parents as Amalia Bonells and José Costa; traces early provenance of the picture.

Gaspar Gómez de la Serna. Goya y su España. Madrid, 1969, pp. 166, 285, dates it 1808.

Pierre Gassier and Juliet Wilson. Vie et oeuvre de Francisco Goya. Ed. François Lachenal. Fribourg, Switzerland, 1970, pp. 208, 214, 253, no. 895, ill. pp. 208, 262 [English ed., 1971], tentatively date it 1813, or the year proposed for the portrait of Pepito's mother (Detroit Institute of Arts), and suggest that her father's death in this year could explain her portrayal in black; mention a Goya miniature that may also depict Pepito.

José Gudiol. Goya 1746–1828: Biographie, analyse critique et catalogue des peintures. Paris, 1970, vol. 1, pp. 175, 328, no. 662; vol. 4, figs. 1072, 1073 (overall and detail) [Spanish ed., 1969–70; English ed., 1971, vol. 1, pp. 179, 335–36, no. 662; vol. 4, figs. 1072, 1073 (overall and detail)], dates it about 1813.

Enrique García-Herraiz. "Crónica de Nueva York." Goya (September–October 1972), p. 107, discusses this picture's first installation in the MMA collection galleries.

Jeannine Baticle. Letter to Olivier Aaron. December 29, 1972, believes Pepito was born about 1802–3, and appears here to be about seven or eight years old; dates our portrait during the Spanish War of Independence [1808–14].

David L. Shirey. "A Goya Valued at $2-Million is Given to Metropolitan." New York Times (July 27, 1972), pp. 1, 22, ill., relates that José Lopez-Rey dates the picture between 1804 and 1808 because Pepito's military suit fell out of fashion after 1808, but adds that most scholars date it between 1814 and 1818 for stylistic reasons.

Everett Fahy. "European Paintings: Goya's Portraits of Pepito Costa y Bonells." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (Summer 1973), unpaginated [indexed as pp. 174–75] , ill. (overall and detail), dates it shortly after 1810 and remarks that seen alongside the portrait of Manuel Osorio (MMA 49.7.71) it shows "Goya's development from a poetic eighteenth-century painter to a profoundly moving realist of the early nineteenth"; sees "direct allusions to war" in Pepito's toys.

Rita de Angelis. L'opera pittorica completa di Goya. Milan, 1974, p. 127, no. 555, ill. p. 127 and colorpl. 48, dates it "1813 [?]".

Anthony M. Clark inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 78, ill., dates it about 1813.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 394, 398, fig. 715 (color).

José Camón Aznar. Fran. de Goya. Vol. 4, Saragossa, 1982, p. 13, ill. p. 37 (color), dates it 1813.

Charles S. Moffett inManet, 1832–1883. Ed. Françoise Cachin and Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, p. 76, fig. a, cites this picture as an influence on Manet's painting, "Boy with a Sword" (1861; MMA 89.21.2), noting that in both works a child is standing among "attributes that reflect the values of adults" and that the sitters' facial expressions are similar.

Edward J. Sullivan. "Goya's 'Two Portraits' of Amalia Bonells de Costa." Arts Magazine 57 (January 1983), pp. 80–81, fig. 3, notes that the Detroit portrait of Pepito's mother is revealed by x-radiography to have been painted on two separate occasions, originally appearing in a floral, less modest dress, and later with greater sobriety, presumably after the death of her father in 1813; suggests that our portrait of Pepito was made on this later occasion.

Pierre Gassier. Goya: Témoin de son temps. Secaucus, 1983, p. 304 [French ed., 1983], dates it about 1813.

Barbara Burn. Metropolitan Children. New York, 1984, p. 40, ill. (color).

Jeannine Baticle. "Goya portraitiste." Biennale des antiquaires no. 439 (September 1988), p. 92.

Walter Liedtke. The Royal Horse and Rider: Painting, Sculpture, and Horsemanship, 1500–1800. New York, 1989, p. 320, no. 208, ill., dates it about 1813, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and calls it a "dismounted equestrian portrait" in which a child's play alludes to the role once inhabited by Spain's rulers .

Milton Esterow. "Masterpiece Theater." Art News 89 (Summer 1990), pp. 134–35, ill., dates it about 1800; quotes Everett Fahy's description of this portrait: "I find that even though it's a child, the artist is able to express his feelings about war and the grim realities that this child is facing as he grows up in a no-longer-innocent world".

Nigel Glendinning. Goya, la década de los caprichos: Retratos, 1792–1804. Exh. cat.Madrid, 1992, p. 123, dates our portrait and that of Pepito' s mother between 1808 and 1815.

José Luis Morales y Marín. Goya: Catálogo de la pintura. Saragossa, 1994, p. 321, no. 441, ill. [English ed., 1997], dates it about 1813.

Susan Alyson Stein inGoya in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1995, pp. 45, 55, 67, fig. 37 (color).

Eleanor Sayre. "One Connoisseur's View of Goya." Goya in the Museum's Collection: Controversies and Insights. October 20, 1995, observes that the "calligraphy of the white brushstrokes on his trousers... suggest to us something of the spirit of the little boy".

Paul Jeromack. "Goya: Truth and Enlightenment." Art Newspaper no. 51 (September 1995), p. 12.

José Manuel Arnaiz. "Nuevas andanzas de Goya: Falsos y auténticos en el Metropolitan." Galería antiquaria no. 136 (February 1996), p. 44, ill. (color), criticizes interpretion of the toys in this picture as allusions to the Spanish War of Independence.

Jeannine Baticle. "Goya au Metropolitan." Connaissance des arts no. 527 (April 1996), pp. 63, 66, fig. 9 (color).

Juan J. Luna inGoya: 250 aniversario. Exh. cat.Madrid, 1996, pp. 33, 410–11, no. 140, ill. pp. 233 (color), 410, dates it about 1813 and finds allusions to war in the picture.

Juliet Wilson-Bareau. "Goya in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Burlington Magazine 138 (February 1996), pp. 101–2, describes the sitter as a "child of the war years".

Enrique Arias Anglés. Goya. Madrid, 1996, p. 132, ill. p. 133 (color), dates it about 1813 and notes its influence on similar French impressionist paintings.

Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 162–66, no. 29, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 88–91, no. 23, ill. (color, overall and detail)], believes the inscribed date most likely read as 1813.

Gudrun Maurer inGoya en tiempos de guerra. Ed. Manuela B. Mena Marqués. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2008, pp. 220–21, no. 48, ill. (color).

For other uses, see Essay (disambiguation).

For a description of essays as used by Wikipedia editors, see Wikipedia:Essays.

"Essai" redirects here. For other uses, see Essai (disambiguation).

An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Formal essays are characterized by "serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length," whereas the informal essay is characterized by "the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme," etc.[1]

Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g., Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

The concept of an "essay" has been extended to other mediums beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions.


An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse".[2] It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject.[3] He notes that "the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything", and adds that "by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece". Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference". These three poles (or worlds in which the essay may exist) are:

  • The personal and the autobiographical: The essayists that feel most comfortable in this pole "write fragments of reflective autobiography and look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description".
  • The objective, the factual, and the concrete particular: The essayists that write from this pole "do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists of setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from the relevant data".
  • The abstract-universal: In this pole "we find those essayists who do their work in the world of high abstractions", who are never personal and who seldom mention the particular facts of experience.

Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays "...make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist."

The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, "to try" or "to attempt". In English essay first meant "a trial" or "an attempt", and this is still an alternative meaning. The Frenchman Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterize these as "attempts" to put his thoughts into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing.[4] Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch, a translation of whose Œuvres Morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot, Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580. For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Francis Bacon's essays, published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as essays. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.



English essayists included Robert Burton (1577–1641) and Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682). In France, Michel de Montaigne's three volume Essais in the mid 1500s contain over 100 examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay. In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano. In the 17th century, the JesuitBaltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom.[5] During the Age of Enlightenment, essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise of periodical literature, as seen in the works of Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays (e.g., T.S. Eliot). Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays. Virginia Woolf, Edmund Wilson, and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays.[5]


Main article: Zuihitsu

As with the novel, essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas. Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. Notable examples include The Pillow Book (c. 1000), by court lady Sei Shōnagon, and Tsurezuregusa (1330), by particularly renowned Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenkō. Kenkō described his short writings similarly to Montaigne, referring to them as "nonsensical thoughts" written in "idle hours". Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.

Forms and styles

This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists.

Cause and effect

The defining features of a "cause and effect" essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject, determine the purpose, consider the audience, think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language, and decide on a conclusion.[6]

Classification and division

Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts.[7]

Compare and contrast

Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by the object (chunking) or by point (sequential). The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. When writing a compare/contrast essay, writers need to determine their purpose, consider their audience, consider the basis and points of comparison, consider their thesis statement, arrange and develop the comparison, and reach a conclusion. Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically.[8]


Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader's emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description. A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language, metaphor, and simile to arrive at a dominant impression.[9] One university essay guide states that "descriptive writing says what happened or what another author has discussed; it provides an account of the topic".[10]Lyric essays are an important form of descriptive essays.


In the dialectic form of the essay, which is commonly used in philosophy, the writer makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument (with a counterargument), but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument. This form benefits from presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present. This type is sometimes called an ethics paper.[11]


An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes. Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay.[12]


An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. Anne Fadiman notes that "the genre's heyday was the early nineteenth century," and that its greatest exponent was Charles Lamb.[13] She also suggests that while critical essays have more brain than the heart, and personal essays have more heart than brain, familiar essays have equal measures of both.[14]

History (thesis)

A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such.[15]


A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of a narrative is the plot. When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative. A narrative is usually arranged chronologically.[16]


An argumentative essay is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic. The main idea of all the criticism is to provide an opinion either of positive or negative implication. As such, a critical essay requires research and analysis, strong internal logic and sharp structure. Its structure normally builds around introduction with a topic's relevance and a thesis statement, body paragraphs with arguments linking back to the main thesis, and conclusion. In addition, an argumentative essay may include a refutation section where conflicting ideas are acknowledged, described, and criticized. Each argument of argumentative essay should be supported with sufficient evidence, relevant to the point.


An economic essay can start with a thesis, or it can start with a theme. It can take a narrative course and a descriptive course. It can even become an argumentative essay if the author feels the need. After the introduction, the author has to do his/her best to expose the economic matter at hand, to analyze it, evaluate it, and draw a conclusion. If the essay takes more of a narrative form then the author has to expose each aspect of the economic puzzle in a way that makes it clear and understandable for the reader


A reflective essay is an analytical piece of writing in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, or form — adding a personal reflection on the meaning of the topic in the author's life. Thus, the focus is not merely descriptive. The writer doesn’t just describe the situation, but revisits the scene with more detail and emotion to examine what went well, or reveal a need for additional learning — and may relate what transpired to the rest of the author's life.

Other logical structures

The logical progression and organizational structure of an essay can take many forms. Understanding how the movement of thought is managed through an essay has a profound impact on its overall cogency and ability to impress. A number of alternative logical structures for essays have been visualized as diagrams, making them easy to implement or adapt in the construction of an argument.[17]


Main article: Free response

In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, essays have become a major part of a formal education in the form of free response questions. Secondary students in these countries are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and essays are often used by universities in these countries in selecting applicants (seeadmissions essay). In both secondary and tertiary education, essays are used to judge the mastery and comprehension of the material. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay. In some courses, university students must complete one or more essays over several weeks or months. In addition, in fields such as the humanities and social sciences,[citation needed] mid-term and end of term examinations often require students to write a short essay in two or three hours.

In these countries, so-called academic essays also called papers, are usually more formal than literary ones.[citation needed] They may still allow the presentation of the writer's own views, but this is done in a logical and factual manner, with the use of the first person often discouraged. Longer academic essays (often with a word limit of between 2,000 and 5,000 words)[citation needed] are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review.[citation needed]

Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay's topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay's argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.

One of the challenges facing universities is that in some cases, students may submit essays purchased from an essay mill (or "paper mill") as their own work. An "essay mill" is a ghostwriting service that sells pre-written essays to university and college students. Since plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty or academic fraud, universities and colleges may investigate papers they suspect are from an essay mill by using plagiarism detection software, which compares essays against a database of known mill essays and by orally testing students on the contents of their papers.[18]

Magazine or newspaper

Main article: Long-form journalism

Essays often appear in magazines, especially magazines with an intellectual bent, such as The Atlantic and Harpers. Magazine and newspaper essays use many of the essay types described in the section on forms and styles (e.g., descriptive essays, narrative essays, etc.). Some newspapers also print essays in the op-ed section.


Employment essays detailing experience in a certain occupational field are required when applying for some jobs, especially government jobs in the United States. Essays known as Knowledge Skills and Executive Core Qualifications are required when applying to certain US federal government positions.

A KSA, or "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities," is a series of narrative statements that are required when applying to Federal government job openings in the United States. KSAs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the successful performance of a position are contained on each job vacancy announcement. KSAs are brief and focused essays about one's career and educational background that presumably qualify one to perform the duties of the position being applied for.

An Executive Core Qualification, or ECQ, is a narrative statement that is required when applying to Senior Executive Service positions within the US Federal government. Like the KSAs, ECQs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The Office of Personnel Management has established five executive core qualifications that all applicants seeking to enter the Senior Executive Service must demonstrate.

Non-literary types


A film essay (or "cinematic essay") consists of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot per se, or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay.[citation needed] From another perspective, an essay film could be defined as a documentary film visual basis combined with a form of commentary that contains elements of self-portrait (rather than autobiography), where the signature (rather than the life story) of the filmmaker is apparent. The cinematic essay often blends documentary, fiction, and experimental film making using tones and editing styles.[19]

The genre is not well-defined but might include propaganda works of early Soviet parliamentarians like Dziga Vertov, present-day filmmakers including Chris Marker,[20]Michael Moore (Roger & Me (1989), Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)), Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line (1988)), Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me: A Film of Epic Portions) and Agnès Varda. Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as "film-essays".[21] Two filmmakers whose work was the antecedent to the cinematic essay include Georges Méliès and Bertolt Brecht. Méliès made a short film (The Coronation of Edward VII (1902)) about the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII, which mixes actual footage with shots of a recreation of the event. Brecht was a playwright who experimented with film and incorporated film projections into some of his plays.[19]Orson Welles made an essay film in his own pioneering style, released in 1974, called F for Fake, which dealt specifically with art forger Elmyr de Hory and with the themes of deception, "fakery," and authenticity in general. These are often published online on video hosting services.[22][23]

David Winks Gray's article "The essay film in action" states that the "essay film became an identifiable form of filmmaking in the 1950s and '60s". He states that since that time, essay films have tended to be "on the margins" of the filmmaking the world. Essay films have a "peculiar searching, questioning tone ... between documentary and fiction" but without "fitting comfortably" into either genre. Gray notes that just like written essays, essay films "tend to marry the personal voice of a guiding narrator (often the director) with a wide swath of other voices".[24] The University of Wisconsin Cinematheque website echoes some of Gray's comments; it calls a film essay an "intimate and allusive" genre that "catches filmmakers in a pensive mood, ruminating on the margins between fiction and documentary" in a manner that is "refreshingly inventive, playful, and idiosyncratic".[25]


In the realm of music, composer Samuel Barber wrote a set of "Essays for Orchestra," relying on the form and content of the music to guide the listener's ear, rather than any extra-musical plot or story.


A photographic essay strives to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small notes to full-text essays with a few or many accompanying photographs. Photo essays can be sequential in nature, intended to be viewed in a particular order — or they may consist of non-ordered photographs viewed all at once or in an order that the viewer chooses. All photo essays are collections of photographs, but not all collections of photographs are photo essays. Photo essays often address a certain issue or attempt to capture the character of places and events.

Visual arts

In the visual arts, an essay is a preliminary drawing or sketch that forms a basis for a final painting or sculpture, made as a test of the work's composition (this meaning of the term, like several of those following, comes from the word essayJA's meaning of "attempt" or "trial").

See also


  1. ^Holman, William (2003). A Handbook to Literature (9 ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 193. 
  2. ^Gale – Free Resources – Glossary – DEArchived 2010-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  3. ^Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays, "Preface".
  4. ^"Book Use Book Theory: 1500–1700: Commonplace Thinking". Archived from the original on 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  5. ^ abessay (literature) – Britannica Online EncyclopediaArchived 2009-12-04 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  6. ^Chapter 7: Cause and Effect in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  7. ^Chapter 5: Classification and Division in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  8. ^Chapter 6: Comparison and Contrast in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  9. ^Chapter 2: Description in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  10. ^Section 2.1 of the Simon Fraser University CNS Essay Handbook. Available online at:
  11. ^"How to Write an Ethics Paper (with Pictures) - wikiHow". Archived from the original on 2016-08-28. Retrieved 2016-07-01. 
  12. ^Chapter 4: Exemplification in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  13. ^Fadiman, Anne. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays. p. x. 
  14. ^Fadiman, At Large and At Small, xi.
  15. ^History Essay Format & Thesis Statement, (February 2010)
  16. ^Chapter 3 Narration in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.
  17. ^"'Mission Possible' by Dr. Mario Petrucci"(PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  18. ^Khomami, Nadia (20 February 2017). "Plan to crack down on websites selling essays to students announced". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. 
  19. ^ abCinematic Essay Film GenreArchived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  20. ^(registration required) Lim, Dennis (July 31, 2012). "Chris Marker, 91, Pioneer of the Essay Film"Archived 2012-08-03 at the Wayback Machine.. The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  21. ^Discussion of film essaysArchived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.. Chicago Media Works.
  22. ^Kaye, Jeremy (2016-01-17). "5 filmmakers that have mastered the art of the Video Essay". Medium. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
  23. ^Liptak, Andrew (2016-08-01). "This filmmaker deep-dives into what makes your favorite cartoons tick". The Verge. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
  24. ^Gray, David Winks (January 30, 2009). "The essay film in action". San Francisco Film Society. Archived from the original on March 15, 2009. 
  25. ^"Talking Pictures: The Art of the Essay Film". Retrieved March 22, 2011.

Further reading

  • Theodor W. Adorno, "The Essay as Form" in: Theodor W. Adorno, The Adorno Reader, Blackwell Publishers 2000.
  • Beaujour, Michel. Miroirs d'encre: Rhétorique de l'autoportrait'. Paris: Seuil, 1980. [Poetics of the Literary Self-Portrait. Trans. Yara Milos. New York: NYU Press, 1991].
  • Bensmaïa, Reda. The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text. Trans. Pat Fedkiew. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.
  • D'Agata, John (Editor), The Lost Origins of the Essay. St Paul: Graywolf Press, 2009.
  • Giamatti, Louis. "The Cinematic Essay", in Godard and the Others: Essays in Cinematic Form. London, Tantivy Press, 1975.
  • Lopate, Phillip. "In Search of the Centaur: The Essay-Film", in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film. Edited by Charles Warren, Wesleyan University Press, 1998. pp. 243–270.
  • Warburton, Nigel. The basics of essay writing. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0-415-24000-X, ISBN 978-0-415-24000-0

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Essays.
University students, like these students doing research at a university library, are often assigned essays as a way to get them to analyze what they have read.
An 1895 cover of Harpers, a US magazine that prints a number of essays per issue.
"After School Play Interrupted by the Catch and Release of a Stingray" is a simple time-sequence photo essay.


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