Some References relating to the essay:
- The Wayward Essay
- Phillip Lopate’s reflections on the relationship between essay and doubt
- Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live
- An edited volume by Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French called Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time
The Clippings File:
Essayism is predicated on at least three things: personal stability, technocratic stability and societal instability.
Below the author equates established print culture to todays emerging electronic media. I think he confuses ubiquity with stability. He writes:
Regarding technocracy, the maturation of print culture during the Renaissance meant that the great texts of Antiquity and newer philosophical, literary and scientific materials could reach a wider audience, albeit mainly composed of people of privilege. The experts of science and technology at that time siphoned some of the power that had been monopolized by the church and the crown. We could draw a similar analogy today: Silicon Valley and the technocratic business class still force the church and the state to share much of their cultural power. The essay thrives under these conditions.
I’m not sure that “essayistic” foundations are established on the interwebs. There are texts, yes. Blogs, tweets, status updates. But on the internet, the essay resides in the links, not the words.
Finally, essay and meditation:
I would argue that the weakest component in today’s nontextual essayism is its meditative deficiency. Without the meditative aspect, essayism tends toward empty egotism and an unwillingness or incapacity to commit, a timid deferral of the moment of choice. Our often unreflective quickness means that little time is spent interrogating things we’ve touched upon. The experiences are simply had and then abandoned. The true essayist prefers a more cumulative approach; nothing is ever really left behind, only put aside temporarily until her digressive mind summons it up again, turning it this way and that in a different light, seeing what sense it makes. She offers a model of humanism that isn’t about profit or progress and does not propose a solution to life but rather puts endless questions to it.