The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Marshall Poe

Marshall Poe is the Editor of New Books Network. He teaches history at the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst. He is a regular contributor to The Atlantic.

Essays Old and New

In the later sixteenth century, about a century after the introduction of the print, Renaissance humanists evolved a novel literary genre, the Essay. The name itself was probably coined by the French thinker Michel de Montaigne. He felt he needed a written mode that would allow him to capture his own thoughts on an important subject, to test their validity, to speculate about their deeper meaning, and to accomplish all this in a fashion that both pleased his readers and instructed them.