Overview

The Encyclopedia of the Essay is the first reference work entirely devoted to the essay as a genre. Essays on more than 400 writers from around the world are included, along with geographical surveys that provide an historical framework, entries on types of essays, and entries on important single essays. Entries on closely-related genres such as letters, journals, treatises, sermons and reviews expand and explore the fluid boundaries of the essay as genre.

"This groundbreaking new source of ...

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Encyclopaedia of the Essay

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Overview

The Encyclopedia of the Essay is the first reference work entirely devoted to the essay as a genre. Essays on more than 400 writers from around the world are included, along with geographical surveys that provide an historical framework, entries on types of essays, and entries on important single essays. Entries on closely-related genres such as letters, journals, treatises, sermons and reviews expand and explore the fluid boundaries of the essay as genre.

"This groundbreaking new source of international scope defines the essay as nonfictional prose texts of between one and 50 pages in length. The more than 500 entries by 275 contributors include entries on nationalities, various categories of essays such as generic (such as sermons, aphorisms), individual major works, notable writers, and periodicals that created a market for essays, and particularly famous or significant essays. The preface details the historical development of the essay, and the alphabetically arranged entries usually include biographical sketch, nationality, era, selected writings list, additional readings, and anthologies."--"Outstanding Reference Sources : the 1999 Selection of New Titles", American Libraries, May 1999. Comp. by the Reference Sources Committee, RUSA, ALA.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is the first encyclopedia devoted entirely to the essay in all its many forms, from Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" and Pope's "Essay on Man" in verse to more conventional essays by figures such as Montaigne and Thoreau. International in scope, the work focuses on the last few centuries, since that is when the essay emerged as a literary form. There are entries for genres such as "travel essays," for various national traditions, important periodicals, "especially significant single essays," and individual essayists. The entries are well written and insightful, and include extensive bibliographies; the entries for individuals also include succinct biographical sketches. Most of the contributors are academics with impressive credentials. The volume's general editor, Chevalier, earlier edited the excellent Contemporary Poets (St. James, 1991. 5th ed.) and Twentieth Century Children's Writers (St. James, 1989. 3rd ed.). This is an excellent scholarly book that belongs in any library that supports belles-lettres.Peter A. Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
Booknews
A hefty one-volume reference addressing various facets of the essay. Entries are of five types: 1) considerations of different types of essay, e.g. moral, travel, autobiographical; 2) discussions of major national traditions; 3) biographical profiles of writers who have produced a significant body of work in the genre; 4) descriptions of periodicals important for their publication of essays; and 5) discussions of some especially significant single essays. Each entry includes citations for further reading and cross references. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781135314101
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 1024
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier made her first bold stroke on the canvas of the literary world with 1999's Girl with a Pearl Earring, which took readers inside the mysterious Vermeer painting of the same name. Her fascination with art and history saturates her work, bringing it to vibrant life.

Biography

Tracy Chevalier first gained attention by imagining the answer to one of art history's small but intriguing questions: Who is the subject of Johannes Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring"?

It was a bold move on Chevalier's part to build a story around the somewhat mysterious 17th-century Dutch painter and his unassuming but luminous subject; but the author's purist approach helped set the tone. "I decided early on that I wanted [Girl] to be a simple story, simply told, and to imitate with words what Vermeer was doing with paint," Chevalier told her college's alumni magazine. "That may sound unbelievably pretentious, but I didn't mean it as 'I can do Vermeer in words.' I wanted to write it in a way that Vermeer would have painted: very simple lines, simple compositions, not a lot of clutter, and not a lot of superfluous characters."

Chevalier achieved her objective expertly, helped by the fact that she employed the famous Girl as narrator of the story. Sixteen-year-old Griet becomes a maid in Vermeer's tumultuous household, developing an apprentice relationship with the painter while drawing attention from other men and jealousy from women. Praise for the novel poured in: "Chevalier's exploration into the soul of this complex but naïve young woman is moving, and her depiction of 17th-century Delft is marvelously evocative," wrote the New York Times Book Review. The Wall Street Journal called it "vibrant and sumptuous."

Girl with a Pearl Earring was not Chevalier's first exploration of the past. In The Virgin Blue, her U.K.-published first novel (due for a U.S. edition in 2003), her modern-day character Ella Turner goes back to 16th-century France in order to revisit her family history. As a result, she finds parallels between herself and a troubled ancestor -- a woman whose fate had been unknown until Ella discovers it.

With 2001's Falling Angels, Chevalier -- a former reference book editor who began her fiction career by enrolling in the graduate writing program at University of East Anglia -- continued to tell stories of women in the past. But she has been open about the fact that compared to writing Girl with a Pearl Earring, the "nightmare" creating of her third novel was difficult and fraught with complications, even tears. The pressure of her previous success, coupled with a first draft that wasn't working out, made Chevalier want to abandon the effort altogether. Then, reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible led Chevalier to change her approach. "[Kingsolver] did such a fantastic job using different voices and I thought, with Falling Angels, I've told it in the wrong way," Chevalier told Bookpage magazine. "I wanted it to have lots of perspective."

With that, Chevalier began a rewrite of her tale about two families in the first decade of 20th-century London. With more than ten narrators (some more prominent than others), Falling Angels has perspective in spades and lots to maintain interest over its relatively brief span: a marriage in trouble, a girlhood friendship born at Highgate Cemetery, a woman's introduction to the suffragette movement. A spirited, fast-paced story, Falling Angels again earned critical praise. "This moving, bittersweet book flaunts Chevalier's gift for creating complex characters and an engaging plot," Book magazine concluded.

Chevalier continues to pursue her fascination with art and history in her fourth novel, on which she is currently at work. According to Oberlin Alumni Magazine, she is basing the book on the Lady and the Unicorn medieval tapestries that hang in Paris's Cluny Museum.

Good To Know

Chevalier's interest in Vermeer extends beyond a fascination with one painting. "I have always loved Vermeer's paintings," Chevalier writes on her Web site. "One of my life goals is to view all thirty-five of them in the flesh. I've seen all but one -- ‘Young Girl Reading a Letter' -- which hangs in Dresden. There is so much mystery in each painting, in the women he depicts, so many stories suggested but not told. I wanted to tell one of them."

Chevalier moved from the States to London in 1984. "I intended to stay six months," she writes. "I'm still here." She lives near Highgate Cemetery with her husband and son.

The film version of Girl with a Pearl Earring is on the 2003 slate from Lions Gate Films, with Scarlett Johansson in the role of Griet and Colin Firth playing Vermeer.

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 19, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994
    2. Website:

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