Despite the recognition of a 'great tradition' of essayists who have been admitted to the literary canon, the genre remains underrated and somewhat neglected in literary studies. Claire de Obaldia's wide-ranging study argues that to relegate the essay in such a way is to ignore the fact that our 'modern' conception of literature is fundamentally essayistic, that ours is a typically essayistic age, and that all texts are implicitly regarded as essays.
The general perception of the essay as a short, fragmentary form that hovers between philosophy and literature has often led to its being overlooked; and yet, Claire de Obaldia contends, therein lies the genre's creative potential. The Essayistic Spirit explores this potential on the borders of philosophy, literature (especially the novel), and criticism, by referring our post-Romantic conception of literature and literary history back to Montaigne's Essais, and to a whole related tradition of philosophical scepticism. But precisely because of what is implied by 'potential', this exploration never loses sight of what de Obaldia regards as the real limits of essayism.
This comparative study draws on a range of writings, including those of Montaigne, early German Romantics, Lukacs, Adorno, Derrida, Hartman, Barthes, Proust, Broch, Musil, Bakhtin, and Borges.
"Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above."--Choice