The Cambridge History of the American Essay

Publication Year



From the country's beginning, essayists in the United States have used their prose to articulate the many ways their individuality has been shaped by the politics, social life, and culture of this place. The Cambridge History of the American Essay offers the fullest account to date of this diverse and complex history. From Puritan writings to essays by Indigenous authors, from Transcendentalist and Pragmatist texts to Harlem Renaissance essays, from New Criticism to New Journalism: The story of the American essay is told here, beginning in the early eighteenth century and ending with the vibrant, heterogeneous scene of contemporary essayistic writing. The essay in the US has taken many forms: nature writing, travel writing, the genteel tradition, literary criticism, hybrid genres such as the essay film and the photo essay. Across genres and identities, this volume offers a stirring account of American essayism into the twenty-first century.

  • The book offers a panoramic view of American essayistic writing from before the US was founded until today
  • The volume describes in detail the particular stylistic and thematic tendencies of essayists throughout American history, offering models for contemporary essayists who consult the volume
  • The book's chapters work as free-standing pieces and as segments of a larger historical arc
Publication Status
In Press
Cambridge University Press & Assessment