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Montaigne called it a ramble; Chesterton the joke of literature; and Hume an ambassador between the worlds of learning and of conversation. Long neglected, the essay has, in the work of such writers as Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Hilton Als, and Zadie Smith, recently come to a prominence rarely seen since the days of the Romantic essayists such as Lamb and Hazlitt. But what is an essay? What qualities link such different writers as Montaigne, Addison, Lamb, Emerson, Woolf, Orwell, and Baldwin? And why does the essay matter?


Join four eminent essayists and literary scholars as they discuss these questions, and celebrate the paperback publication of On Essays: Montaigne to the Present, edited by Thomas Karshan and Kathryn Murphy.


Brian Dillon (

Jeff Dolven (

Merve Emre (

Dame Hermione Lee (

Unless stated otherwise, all our events are free of charge and anyone interested in the topic is welcome to attend. Registration is required for all events. Please sign up using the booking form below.