The word ‘essai’ originates from French, where it was first used for a written genre by Michel de Montaigne in 1580. The word means almost ‘experiment’, ‘draft’ or ‘study’.
Literally, the essay refers to a shorter prose text, where the writer reflects on a general human subject and spices his text with personal experiences or observations. A small everyday detail or personal experience could well give rise to some general considerations that are of general interest. The essay’s personal style may include: come to terms with the fact that the essayist addresses himself directly to his reader, eg “now you may think I am sentimental, but …”.
General Essay Writing Tips
In one of his 107 essays, Montaigne explains what might be the essay’s main characteristics:
“Here I am proposing some formless and unresolved ideas, like the people who put questions of doubt to debate in schools. Not to get the truth fixed, but to seek it. “
An important difference between the chronicle and the essay is that, in the chronicle, one should reach a clear position on a specific topic, while in the essay one should thus be able to reach an “open end”. The essayist has not necessarily reached a definitive answer, but has undergone some considerations during the writing process and asked some questions for himself.
In Denmark, Holberg wrote essays under the titles “Epistles” and “Moral Thoughts”. The essay genre lives in our time in the newspaper palaces as a cluster – and of course in the Danish lessons in high school! :-).
In school essays, however, one usually has to start with one or more texts and the topic is always Danish, ie something with literature, language or media. You will also be judged on your ability to apply your knowledge in Danish – so check your teaching description for inspiration – have you had a course with concepts you can draw on?
Here one has to show that one can account for the most important views and that one can take an independent position on them. The independent and personal touch is very important in the essay. The writing of the essay can be divided into three:
Find main views in textual layouts
Before you start your own text, in a kind of introduction, you must relate to the textual presentation you (most often) should take as a starting point in. In this context (as in the text analysis)
Present text and author
Present the reader to a number of the text’s main points expressed by the author.
Tell us which of these points / views have inspired you.
In this way, the textbook will be the prelude to your independent essay, which follows.
Your personal views
In your own text, you must reflect on the problem / themes / views etc. that you have previously drawn from the texts. It is important that you enter into dialogue with the texts that you must start with and not just write out your own key. In your essay you must demonstrate independent thinking, and you must make sure to justify your views and document your observations. The essay alternates between personal, concrete experiences or observations from everyday life and then a more abstract level where the small concrete things are linked to some general “trends” in society.
I have been allowed to use an extract from an essay in a blog post about digital distractions. Here you may get a sense of the essay style.
Here you gather up your study of the topic / theme as it is expressed in your essay, and you make yourself considerations in relation to the text / texts you started with. Have your study / reflection:
confirmed the main ideas / allegations that were in the copy?
nuanced the author’s views; added new ones?
questioned one or more of the views / statements?
raised new questions requiring new studies and new answers?
You really need to be able to use the texts you are asked to relate to. One has to take an independent stand on the views they put forward. One must argue for his views – “I think” is not enough.
Censors good advice from 2019:
– Avoid discussing on the basis of the text, thereby giving the essay answers to chronicles
– Greater use of (Danish) professional knowledge
– Use examples
– There must be links between examples and considerations / reflections
– Many find it difficult to hit an essayistic language tone
– The roundings are either too closed and conclusive or too open – often with a final reader inquiry