On Essay Writing–Turning the Mind Inward

Mary Oliver, editor of the Best American Essays 2009, asks the question, “What is an essay?” In her answer she quotes Michel de Montaigne, who popularized the essay as a literary genre:

The world always looks straight ahead; as for me, I turn my gaze inward. I fix it there and keep it busy. Everyone looks in front of him; as for me, I look inside of me; I have no business but with myself; I continually observe myself, I take stock of myself, I taste myself; Others always go elsewhere, if they stop to think about it; they always go forward…As for me, I roll about in myself.

–From the Complete Works, translated by Donald M. Frame.

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