I believe with heart and soul in a radiant future for the essay and am therefore not only busy writing essays, but also a kind of missionary who tries to convert others to the writings. When I tell people that I do my essay and a bundling soon comes out, I usually get one of these two reactions. Colleagues and others from the academic world usually say: not scientific? You mean that you wrote a novel? Friends from outside the literary world, on the other hand, always think that I am writing a textbook. Writing: that is either fiction or doing learned things (so boring) – there is not much in between.
Apart from the fact that I apparently do not have to expect much from my immediate environment when it comes to boosting sales figures, it also indicates that the essay can still use some missionaries. After all, the essay is a genre that moves perfectly in that space. A personal expression that does not strive for objectivity, but also does not want to sell nonsense, which does not lock itself up in the self, but is open to the outside world, even if only in the form of other books, other writers, filmmakers, music or whatever. So I try to explain that: no, I do not write a novel, and no, certainly not some boringly elaborate work with hundreds of footnotes.
What is essay?
The essay is a literary form, and of course I also know that it means: a quest and a search. I also see it as a literary form in which information on a particular way can be transferred. In which the uncertain position of the writers in relation to old-fashioned matters such as truth and the facts can be put in the foreground, I may have to say. And it nonetheless involves information, to relate to content, and in which the experience of uncertainty can be schematized to truth. That is the first reason why the essay should get more attention: it fits with this time that swings farewell to ‘truth’ but only puts in place other positive certainties.
It would be too technical to go into that, but points to kinship with the essay, which is also characterized by the fact that it is built up by all sorts of external matters that can be put together on paper (on the screen) and linked together, in this case by the writer. So you can talk about yourself, you also have to talk about the outside world, gather information, that does not have to be exact and certain, you can add, copy, quote, paraphrase, even if it is not yours , it may even be pictures or video, yes, even Wikipedia is allowed!
I think that the essay is increasingly recognized as a paradise for the contemporary writer. By reading all those submissions, I get at least more and more a picture of what the essay can do, of how it gives people a form they might not have suspected before, a form that is indeed searching but also very precise: no novel, no academic paper.