Module 1 – The History and Design of the Essay

Getting Started
  1. Review the module introduction and outcomes to help you gain an understanding of the main topics and expectations.
  2. Work through each lesson in this module and complete the Check Your Knowledge activity.  You can take notes on each lesson by clicking on the “take notes” tab on the bottom right of your screen. You can take notes for each lesson and they will appear on your dashboard. Make sure you save your notes before continuing to another lesson or quiz.
  3. Complete the Module Quiz and Module Evidence Activity on this page once all lessons are finished in full.

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You’ve probably been asked to write an essay before, but have you ever wondered — where did an essay come from? What makes an essay, an essay? In this module, you will learn about the history of the essay, how it came to be, and the functions of each type of essay. You will also learn about the different elements of an essay and how different subject areas use essay writing. Last, you will analyze different essays to understand the purpose and identify the different elements of the essays.

After completing this Module, you should be able to:

  • Define essay, discuss the history of the essay and define academic and formal writing.
  • Identify genres of essay writing.
  • Explain how historical context influences an essay and analyze Susan B. Anthony essay’s effectiveness.
  • Explain how historical context influences an essay and analyze Louisa May Alcott essay’s effectiveness.
  • Explain how historical context influences an essay and analyze Ralph Waldo Emerson essay’s effectiveness.

Lesson 1 – The History of the Essay

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  • academic essay
    a structured discussion of a particular subject; written to inform
  • essay
    a structured written argument that uses multiple sub-points to support the main argument
  • film essay
    an alternative essay form, which takes a particular point of view and presents an argument through film, in order to gain the audience's support
  • informal essays
    a loose structured, one-sided conversation with the reader that generally states the writer’s perspective on a subject; written to entertain and inform
  • musical essay
    an alternative essay form, created either by putting a written essay’s text to music or by using musical forms and structures to provide a commentary on a song’s lyrical content
  • New Journalism
    a loose mix of reporting, criticism, and fiction written in the 1960s, which increased the essay form’s popularity
  • photographic essay
    an alternative essay form, made up of photos showing either a sequence of events or a sequence of thematically linked images that, when viewed in a particular order, implies a specific point of view toward a subject based on the audience’s reaction to the images
  • thesis statement
    a sentence that defines an argument

Lesson 2 – Essay Elements and Types of Essays

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  • body paragraph
    paragraphs that follow the introductory paragraph and provide supporting arguments for a thesis statement
  • essay
    a structured written argument that uses multiple sub-points to support the main argument
  • phrase
    the way in which a sentence is written, such as word choice and placement
  • revise
    editing a piece of writing to improve the substance of what is written
  • thesis
    the main idea of an argument or discussion

Lesson 3 – Susan B. Anthony: “On Women’s Right to Vote”

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  • 19th Amendment
    (aka. the Anthony Amendment); amendment to the U.S. Constitution that granted American women's suffrage; ratified on August 18, 1920
  • argumentative essay
    an essay that requires the writer to make a strong argument for or against a specific topic, almost always by incorporating some form of outside, empirical evidence to support the writer’s claims
  • Susan B. Anthony
    an American women’s rights activist and a major figure in the Women’s Suffrage Movement throughout the 19th century
  • women’s suffrage
    the right of women to vote in elections

Lesson 4 – Louisa May Alcott: “Death of a Soldier”

AJAX progress indicator
  • body paragraph
    paragraphs that follow the introductory paragraph and provide supporting arguments for a thesis statement
  • conclusion
    sums up the main argument of an essay and reiterates a larger context for the thesis
  • essay
    a structured written argument that uses multiple sub-points to support the main argument

Lesson 5 – Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Self Reliance”

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  • rhetoric
    spoken or written language that is carefully constructed in order to have an impact on the listener or reader
  • transcendentalism
    a philosophical movement from the early to mid 19th century which valued nature, humanity, individualism, and progressive social values