As I reflect on the enlightening session last week with Peter Thomas in which Peter was exploring what defines an essay, I am inspired to share one of author and professor Alan Wall's pieces of writing for the fortnightly review of books about the written essay. I am fascinated by Wall's thought of the essay as 'provisional' and something that 'thinks without certainty'. These explorations speak to me in ways which go beyond the fact that this is my dad's work and I wanted to share the full essay here as well as some extracts below in case it is of interest to my fellow researchers.
'It’s more of an attempt than a final definition. It is by its very nature provisional.'
'Essays do not round themselves off with a definitive QED. They slide away, with a host of other questions arising.'
'The essayistic mind-set has an open aperture at both ends. It does not close itself off with conclusions. It remains provisional, in order to dance on the page. When one begins thinking essayistically, one soon wanders far beyond the scope of the essay.'
'The essay thinks without certainty. It shapes its literary form into a question-mark. It says human thought is a query, not a resolution.'
(Alan Wall, 2022, Fortnightly Review)