|The place of the essay in literary study has suffered from a gradual re-definition of literature which has taken place in the twentieth century. Many modern critics have forwarded a linguistic definition of literature based on formal properties of the text. They speak of a special "literary language," language that draws attention to itself. Other critics have limited literature to fiction. According to these critics, only in fiction does the writer have an opportunity to exercise his full imaginative resources. By either of these definitions the essay, as nonfiction prose, is excluded from literary study. Although critics have demeaned the essay on theoretical grounds, most have been reluctant to dismiss the essay entirely since it has enjoyed a long and distinguished literary history. From Montaigne to White, essayists have attracted a large and devoted readership. Often critics and teachers are faced with the paradoxical situation of demeaning the form and praising particular essayists. If we recognize that the definition of literature does not reside in formal properties of the text, but in the interaction between reader and text, in what Louise Rosenblatt calls "aesthetic reading," then the definition of literature is broadened to include a variety of forms, including the essay. The traditional place of the essay in literary study attests to aesthetic value of the essay for generations of readers. Although the form of the essay is not as evident as some other poetic forms, it does have identifiable characteristics. Many of these are related to the aim of the essayist. The exploratory aim is evident in the writing of Montaigne; the persuasive aim, in Orwell; the expressive aim, in Lamb and Didion; and the stylistic aim, in Carlyle.