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Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference".These three poles (or worlds in which the essay may exist) are: Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays "..the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist." The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, "to try" or "to attempt".
Formal essays are characterized by "serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length," whereas the informal essay is characterized by "the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme," etc.
Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.
An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story.
Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal.
Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature.
Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. 1000), by court lady Sei Shōnagon, and Tsurezuregusa (1330), by particularly renowned Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenkō.
Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g., Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man).
While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples.
Kenkō described his short writings similarly to Montaigne, referring to them as "nonsensical thoughts" written in "idle hours".
Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.