There is a belief that writing is the world’s oldest profession, and after reading the pages written by many American essayists that have left their mark on literature, one may be inclined to agree. As you carve out your path to possibilities in the world of academia you will undoubtedly be asked to write countless essays on numerous subjects. You can use our services or improve your writing skills. The best way to rev up your writing engine, no matter what type of writing project that you are faced with, is to read. The best type of reading that gives you the best preparedness is the essay.
Reading American essays can span across many decades, giving the reader different opinions to contrast and compare. Whether it be historical, personal, or scientific, reading across many genres makes for a broader sense of information, and helps mold what you think you know into what you will now know for sure. This is not to say that each essay you read is going to change your way of thinking, but it’s definitely a way of getting another point of view, and opening your mind to question things outside of the box.
Essays can be generational, which is a good way to find informative personal and non-personal opinions of the people that lived during a time that you may have to study and write about. An academic paper that has contrasting ideas and comparison makes for a better paper in the eyes of a professor. It shows that you took the time to offer up a “what if” situation and were not giving your “feelings” about the information and making the piece subjective instead of objective.
Before beginning your assigned paper, take a stroll along the different historical periods of American Essayists, explore some of their writings, and the period, so that you can be pumped up and ready to attack that paper head on and possibly get that “A”.
The Colonial/ Early American Period-Pre 1776-1820:
This was a time of high revolutionary spirit and it is shown in the writing of that time. The people in America at that time were a fledgling nation and were concerned with the laws that they considered unfair and to be parallel to those in England. They wanted to break free from the throne and fight for the Constitution. This was a time of antislavery essays. Writers focused on democratic soundness, and these rocky relationships between England and America. Many of the essayists of the time paid publishers to print their work.
William Cobbett- (1763-1835) Pamphleteer, and journalist wrote extensively in favor of the little guy. He came to America for a few years and is known to have carried Thomas Paine’s, another great essayist, remains around with him and they were found on him when he died. Now don’t you think you would like to read some of what he wrote? One that you may find especially interesting is “Advice to Young Men and (incidentally) to Young women” this is a series of letters based on conduct. How ironic, coming from a man that carried dead remains around with him for years.
Abraham Cowley (1618 –1667) Poet and essayist, will be good for those who want to delve into the mind of a Royalist in exile. Although Cowley was intrigued by the works of Pindar, trying to copy Pindar’s metrical style, he inadvertently invented his own which was penned “Pindaric” Ode, or mistaken ode. This gives you an idea of how words can be transformed from one writer to the next and new ideas can erupt. You may be the next Cowley!
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) One of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a well-known political theorist. If by now, in your academic career, you have not read Franklin, this would be a good time to expand your knowledge base with this exceptional writers’ work. William Wordsworth wrote that science and poetry were bedfellows, and there is no greater writer/poet/essayist/editor publisher, and scientist than Benjamin Franklin to prove Wordsworth's’ theory. Although Franklin’s most famous acknowledgement is that of the lightning rod experiments, he was the highest accomplished American of his time. He was who defined what is now known as the American Dream. You can find many of his writings in your local library or online.
The time of the American Renaissance, which originated in Germany, spreading from there and on throughout Europe, gets you ready for self-absorption. This was a time that writers were concerned with men finding themselves and creating art for art’s sake. Nature plays a big part in this age of writing. Essayist were focused on themes of self-development, self-expression, spirit, and how important art was for society and individual growth. Many of the following writers are still well known today.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) Considered a central figure of the Romanticism period in American literature, Poe’s writings leaned primarily towards the macabre and mystery. You will find the short stories that he has compiled. He suffered financially due to trying desperately use writing alone as a form of income. You will find the story of his life as intriguing as his many short stories and essays. One of his essays that you may find interesting is “The Poetic Principle” published in 1848, which keeping in line with the Romantic period espouses that a poem should be written “for a poems sake”, and that the shorter the poem the more aesthetic the meaning would be.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) Our first woman on the list. Anthony, writer, American social reformer, feminist, and the most famous face on the women’s suffrage movement. Ms. Anthony fought for the American Anti-Slavery movement by collecting petitions in New York in 1856. She fought for women’s rights and the rights of African Americans all of her life. Susan B. Anthony will be honored before the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gives women the right to vote, by having her image along with other famous women on the $10 bill. Having fought all of her life for the rights of others, you will find a wealth of reading from the annals of this famous writer/activist to get your juices going.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) Although born into slavery Frederick Douglass became an orator, accomplished writer and statesman. He debunked slaveholders’ ideas that slaves lacked the ability to learn in an intelligent capacity and thereby function on their own in American society. While touring in the North, giving speeches and developing pamphlets for his anti-slavery campaigns, many Northerners could hardly believe that Mr. Douglass was a former slave. Although long on content, many of his autobiographies are filled with stories of his days of bondage that you will not be able to put down.
With America emerging as a leading industrial nation, with that strength came forth the writers who began to pen essays based on national strength and growth, industrialization, and urban life. Some of the lines of those writers ring on in our hearts and are well known down to this day.
W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) Not only was Mr. Dubois a great writer/essayist, he was the first African American to earn a Ph.D., attending both the University of Berlin and Harvard University. He went on to become a professor of sociology, economics and history at Atlanta University. Dubois was a co-founder of the NAACP and who disagreed with the Atlanta Compromise, a well-known agreement developed by Booker T. Washington, which minimized the value of Blacks in America. Mr. Dubois believed that all Americans should be treated equally, including African Americans, and was a fighter for equal rights until he died. His many essays and speeches gives full disclosure of the fight that the freedman now suffered at the hands of White Supremists. If you are writing about this era, Mr. Dubois’ writings can lead you down the right road to an excellent starting point for your paper.
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) If fiction is what will get your writing mojo going, why not give some of the most endearing short stories by L. M. Alcott a read? She is famous for her novel Little Women published in 1868, which loosely resembles the life and times of her family in Concord, Massachusetts. As a nurse during the Civil War, she became ill, and the letters she wrote home at the time were collected and published entitled Hospital Sketches, which was filled with her humorous observations of how hospitals were mismanaged at the time, and the surgeon’s callousness and indifference while working closely with them. You can also find passionate novels by Alcott written under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard, which reveals women characters who are pursuing their own dreams and ambitions.
These are just a few of the many essayists that you can find to get in the mood for writing. Their styles vary, and you can find an extensive list of essayists and their writings at your school’s library or online. Don’t stop there. You still have to go through additional ages such as: Modernism, Experimentation, Post-war, and Contemporary.