Types of Essay in English Literature

Also Read

Types of Essay

      There are two primary forms of essays — literary and non-literary. Literary essays are of four major types, such as expository, descriptive, narrative and persuasive. These are the four different types of writing that are generally used. There are also many other minor or sub-types of essays that may fall in any of those categories. Non-literary essays, on the other hand, can also be of the same types but they can be written in any format. These include film, visual art, music and photography.

Literary Essay

1. Expository Essay

      An expository essay is a writer’s explanation of a short theme, idea or issue to the targeted audience. This essay is presented through facts, examples, definitions, comparison, statistics and contrast. This is one o the most common types of writing. Expository essay is personal response to a particular event which can be social, political, religious, literary, educational, cultural, and even world event, and so on. It is an informative piece of writing that presents a balanced analysis of a topic. As the expository essays are based on facts, personal feelings or emotions are not entertained here; the writer avoids using the first person 'I'. Expository writing, which explains or informs about a subject, is a subject-oriented, writing style, in which authors focus on telling about a given topic or subject without voicing their personal opinions. This type of essay is usually composed in a logical order and sequence. Robert Lynd’s (1879-1949) Seaside is such an example.

2. Persuasive Essay

      In persuasive essay, the writer’s intention remains to convince his readers to adopt his position on a point of view or issue as he provides his view to them solid and strong one in this connection. Writing this type of essay requires a lot of research to claim and defend an idea. Here writer’s rationale and argument is most important to persuade and win the readers’ belief to his point of view. It is also called an argumentative essay. The essayist should, not sentimental or so passionate that he loses the reader, as Irish poet W. B. Yeats puts it — “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity”. The essay ends with a strong conclusion aiming at the universal trust on rationality underlying significance in it.

      The persuasive essay is written in a style that grabs and holds the reader’s attention, and the writer’s opinion is backed up by strong supporting details. While the target of an expository essay is its presentation of facts, the goal of the persuasive essay is to convince the reader to accept the writer’s point of view or recommendation. The writer must build a case using facts and logic, as well as examples, expert opinion, and sound reasoning. The writer should present all sides of the argument, but must be able to communicate clearly and without equivocation why a certain position is correct. Persuasive writing’s main purpose is to convince. Unlike expository writing, persuasive writing contains the opinions and biases of the author. To convince others to agree with the author’s point of view, persuasive writing contains justifications and reasons. It is often used in letters of complaint, advertisements or commercials, affiliate marketing pitches, cover letters, and newspaper opinion and editorial pieces. As an example of a persuasive essay we can refer to the lines taken from Of Love by Francis Bacon:

“It is impossible to love, and be wise ... Love is a child of folly ... Love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt. You may observe that amongst all the great and worthy persons...there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love: which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion...That he had preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas. For whosoever esteemed too much of amorous affection quitted both riches and wisdom.”

      In this excerpt, Bacon attempts to persuade the readers that people, who want to be successful in this world, they must never fall in love. By giving an example of famous people like Paris, who chose Helen as his beloved but lost his wealth and wisdom, the author attempts to convince the audience that they can lose their mental balance by falling in love.

3. Descriptive Essay

      A descriptive essay describes about a particular topic or the traits and characteristics of something or a person in details. It allows artistic freedom and creates images in the minds of readers through the use of five senses. The descriptive essay paints a picture with words. A writer might describe a person, place, object, or even memory of special significance. However, this type of essay is not description for description’s sake. The descriptive essay strives to communicate a deeper meaning through the description. In a descriptive essay, the writer should show, not tell, through the use of colorful words and sensory details. The best descriptive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, with a result that is highly evocative. The language of a descriptive essay can exploit poetic flavor when the writer wants to express something in more attractively. For example, the expression “The vampire killed his lover” can be otherwise described as “The bloody, red-eyed vampire, sunk his rust-colored teeth into the soft skin of his lover and ended her life”. The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo by Jeffrey Tayler can be treated as a descriptive essay in the lines like -

“As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees — the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae’d stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.”

      This is an example of a descriptive essay, as the author has used descriptive language to paint a dramatic picture for his readers of an encounter with a stranger.

4. Narrative Essay

      Narrative essay is non-fictional description of a story with sensory elements.

      In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about a real-life experience. Such type of essay inspires readers to think and write about themselves in turn. When writing a narrative essay, writers should try to involve the reader by making the story as vivid as possible. The use of first person 'I' is aimed at engaging the reader in the story. Characters and dialogues are employed in course of narration of the story-telling, and finally, the writers tells “what happened to them?”. Essays are usually ended with proper conclusion or a personal statement. For example, in The Autobiography of a Kettle by John Russell, the author tells an autobiography of a kettle and describes the whole story in chronological order. The author has described kettle as a human being, and allows the readers to feel, as he has felt:

“I am afraid I do not attract attention, and yet there is not a single home in which I could done without. I am only a small, black kettle but I have much to interest me, for something new happens to me every day. The kitchen is not always a cheerful place in which to live, but still, I find plenty of excitement there, and I am quite happy and contented with my lot...”

5. The Analytical Essay

      In the analytic essay, the writer analyzes, examines and interprets such things as an event, book, poem, play or other works of art. The analysis is done in respect of the writers own argument. Firstly the problems or issues of analysis are introduced and ultimately arguments are approached. Analyses are done in a well-organized manner. Essays normally use present tense and avoid the use of first-person unnecessarily. A new title is employed instead of using the original title of the main text under analysis. Analysis does not retell the main story, rather analysis aims to explain how the writer makes us think what he or she wants us to think about a matter.

6. The Argumentative Essay

      The argumentative essay is intended to prove that the author’s opinion, theory or hypothesis about an issue is more correct and truthful than those of others. Indeed, it is very similar to the persuasive essay except the fact that the author here argues for his opinion as opposed or superior to others, rather than directly trying to persuade someone to adopt his point of view. Argumentative essays are most often used to address controversial issues - i.e. serious issues over which more than one argument exists along with agreement and disagreements. The main idea of all the criticisms is to provide an opinion either of positive or negative implications. As such, a critical essay requires research and analysis, strong internal logic and sharp structure. Each argument should be supported with sufficient evidence, relevant to the point. Writers use facts, statistics, quotes and examples to convince his readers. Philosophical issues often remain the favorite subjects of argumentative essays.

7. Essay as a Pedagogical Tool

      Essay as a Pedagogical Tool has become a major part of a formal education. It is intended to improve the thinking and writing skills of students about a particular matter both in secondary and tertiary education systems. Through this type of essay judgement of the students’ mastery and comprehension of material can be very easily done. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay. Academic essays are usually more formal than literary ones. 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. 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 mid-term and end of term examinations often require students to write a short essay in two or three hours. Word-limitation is often the part and parcel of such a type of essay. Here the writers are expected to include the optimum information within the pre-specified structure.

8. The Five-Paragraph Essay

      The five-paragraph essay is a format of essay having five paragraphs: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs with support and development, and one concluding paragraph. Because of this structure, it is also known as a hamburger essay, one three one, or a three-tier essay. The use of this format is controversial. Proponents argue that it teaches students how to organize their thoughts clearly in writing; opponents characterize its structure as rigid and repetitive. The five-part essay is a step up from the five-paragraph essay often called the ‘persuasive’ or ‘argumentative’ essay. Another form of the five part essay consists of parts like -

(i) Introduction: A thematic overview of the topic, and introduction of the thesis;

(ii) Narration: A review of the background literature to orient the reader to the topic; also, a structural overview of the essay;

(iii) Affirmation: The evidence and arguments in favor of the thesis;

(iv) Negation: The evidence and arguments against the thesis; these also require either ‘refutation’ or ‘concession’;

(v) Conclusion: Summary of the argument, and association of the thesis and argument with larger, connected, issues.

      In the five-paragraph essay, the ‘body’ is all affirmation; the narration and negation’ (and its ‘refutation’ or ‘concession’) make the five-part essay less ‘thesis-driven’ and more balanced and fair. Rhetorically, the transition from affirmation to negation (and refutation or concession) is typically indicated, by contrastive terms such as ‘but’, ‘however’, and on the other hand. The five parts are purely formal and can be created and repeated at any length, from a sentence (though it would be a highly complex one), to the standard paragraphs of a regular essay, to the chapters of a book, and even to separate books themselves (though each book would, of necessity, include the other parts while emphasizing the particular part).

9. Academic Essay

      The academic essay is merely a specific writing genre — as is the love letter, newspaper editorial, or pop-fiction. As a genre, it functions within a set of norms, rules, and conventions. The purpose of the academic essay is to persuade by reasoned discourse. Scholars use the essay amongst themselves to advance ideas. Its value as an instructional tool is to assist students in developing their critical thinking skills.

10. Compare and Contrast Essay

      Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by object (chunking) or by point (sequential). 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. The compare and contrast essay is aimed to develop the relationship between two or more things. Generally, the goal is to show that superficial differences or similarities are inadequate, and that closer examination reveals their unobvious, yet significant, relations or differences. A good compare and contrast essay does not only point out how the subjects are similar or different (or even both!), it also uses those points to make a meaningful argument about the subjects.

11. Cause and Effect Essay

      Cause and Effect Essay shows causal chains that connect a cause with an effect in chronological or emphatic order. Cause and effect essays are concerned with why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). Cause and effect is a common method of organizing and discussing ideas. This type of essay shows how an event causes something to happen, and that situation leads to another event, and it causes another event to happen. This is called the causal chain or domino effect. Some good examples of such an essay include the student’s essays like Wreckless Industrialization and Environment Polution, Effect of Watching too much TV, Footpath Hawkers and Traffic Jam and so on.

12. Dialectic Essay

      In the dialectic 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.

Non-Literary Types

1. Film

      Film essays are cinematic forms of the essay, with the film consisting of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot; or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay. An essay film can also 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.

      The genre includes works of early Soviet documentarians like Dziga Vertov, or present-day filmmakers like Chris Marker, Michael Moore (Roger & Me in 1989, Bowling for Columbine in 2002 and Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004) Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line in 1988), Morgan Spurlock (Surprise Me: A Film of Epic proportions} and Agnes Varda. Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as ‘film-essays’. David Winks Gray’s article The Essay Film in Action states that the “essay film became an identifiable form of film making in the 1950s and 60s. He states that since that time, essay films have tended to be “on the margins” of the film making 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”.

2. Music

      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. Samuel Barber’s Essay for Orchestra, Op. 12, completed in the first half of 1938, is an orchestral work in one movement. It was given its first performance by Arturo Toscanini with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 5, 1938 in New York in a radio broadcast concert in which the composer’s Adagio for Strings saw its first performance. It lasts around 8 minutes. The essay is now known as the First Essay for Orchestra after Barber wrote his Second Essay for Orchestra in 1942. He also wrote a Third Essay in 1978.

3. Photography

      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.

4. Visual Arts

      The visual arts are art forms such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking, literature, and architecture. 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. Visual arts are the modern but imprecise umbrella term for a broad category of art which includes a number of artistic disciplines from various sub-categories. The visual arts are those creations we can look at, such as drawing, painting, sculpture architecture, photography, film, printmaking etc.

Previous Post Next Post