Can the Essay Still Surprise Us?

By Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Professor in the School of Historical Studies:

The French verb essayer means “to try,” “to attempt”; even “to try out.” Like the “Try-Works” of Melville’s Moby Dick, where clear pure sperm oil is melted down from the chunks of whale boiled in the ship-deck cauldrons, Montaigne’s essays are a place where the self is melted down into its pure essence—and yet Montaigne is different, in that the self is a chameleon, changing color from red to blue to green, from line to line, from page to page. The self is coming into being and changing in real time, as the reader moves through the essay.

Read more at Literary Hub.