The literary essay

The essay emerges as a writing that has the purpose of transmitting ideas, however, given the formal freedom and malleability that characterize it, in modern times writers found in it also a way to exploit their creativity, with which soon it was incorporated, along with the theater, the narrative and the poetry, to the list of the literary genres.

When we talk about literary essay, we point out that in this type of essays, the aesthetic and creative end of writing is linked to the reflexive process: in the literary essay, not only is the theme or idea to be treated important, but it also enhances the way and the originality in which it is written.

Unlike the academic essay, where the topics to be treated always have a level of formality typical of the academic field, the literary essay can deal with issues of great transcendence and complexity, to everyday and apparently banal issues, but that seek to express the reflective process of its author.

Thus, for example, the Mexican writer Julio Torri wrote an essay on the bicycle, while the Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco also dedicates one of his essays to cockroaches.

The literary essay is aimed at a general and non-specialized public, so it is usually written without using technical and complex terms, unlike the academic essay, which has readers as specialists in some subject, can use a specialized vocabulary accordingly to the discipline in which it is located.

Insofar as it is considered a branch of creative writing, originality is a fundamental element of literary essay. Such originality can be found both in the subject treated and in the style in which it is written. In the literary essay it is common for the author to use aesthetic resources such as humor, irony, digression and parody, among others.

Given the importance of originality in the literary essay, it is common for the author to project his personal style in writing and it is even common that in the eagerness to project his personality in the writing, the author makes references to his private life.


Unlike the academic essays where the technicalities and scientific or philosophical concepts are privileged, where what matters most is what matters; in literary essay it matters more how it is said (the form above the background). Therefore, it is common to use literary resources such as humor, irony, digressions, etc.

The structure of the essay responds to the style of the essayist and most of the times the content is combined with the form, highlighting both at different moments of the essay. Starting from the fact that the essayist does not intend to deepen the subject scientifically or academically, the structure opens up to the literary resources used by the essayist. However, one characteristic that can not be avoided is the manifestation of the essayist’s personal position on the subject he is dealing with.

Like the academic, the literary essay usually consists of an introduction where the author points out the subject or problem he will speak about, as well as his own position on the subject; a development where he exposes the details of the topic and the arguments for and against the issue to be dealt with and finally a closing or conclusion where the author gives his thesis as proven. However, such a structure is not rigid and it is not necessary for the author to indicate with sub-titles each of the parties, it can even modify the order of these. It is also common to find literary essays written in the form of a divagation, that is, that the author can freely move from one subject to another.

In essay writing it is common to refer to the ideas or works that other authors have written about the same topic that we are dealing with. When in an academic essay we use the ideas or works of other authors, it is required to be clearly informed of where we have taken such information, there are even special formats for it, such as the critical apparatus and the bibliographic citation. However, in the literary or creative essay, this requirement to offer punctual references disappears to favor the agility and amenity of the writing. If in the academic essay it is required that when repeating the idea of ​​an author, the title of the work and the page from which the data is given are reported, in the literary essay the name of the author can only be quoted, without giving the work or place where he said it.

Usually, literary essays appear in isolation in non-specialized journals such as newspapers or magazines, although they can later be brought together in a single volume as a book of essays.