With eight books of literary criticism to his name, retired Swarthmore College professor Philip Weinstein has taken a new direction in his latest work, a collection of personal essays titled Soul-Error.

Mr. Weinstein, who lives full time on the Vineyard after teaching at the college for 40 years, is best known as an expert on the fiction of William Faulkner, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka and other modernists. But his new book, which takes its title from the 16th-century work of philosopher Michel de Montaigne, seemed to confuse the literary publishing houses Mr. Weinstein has worked with in the past.

“I was unprepared for the difficulty of getting it published,” Mr. Weinstein told an audience of more than 60 people who joined a recent online book talk through the Vineyard Haven library.

“They didn’t know what category to put it in,” he added. “I’m now proud of that.”

Even describing his book of essays — now available from Georgia-based The Humble Essayist Press — is a challenge, Mr. Weinstein said.

“It’s not philosophy,” he said. “It’s also not a novel, even though there are adventures in it.”

It’s also the first book Mr. Weinstein has written for a non-academic audience, he said.

“It is the only thing I have ever written that is widely readable [without] special expertise,” he told his library listeners. “I wanted to do something more direct and more openly self-exploratory.”

The book offers Mr. Weinstein’s many fans — audiences regularly packed his literary lectures at the Katharine Cornell Theatre and on Zoom during the pandemic — a new perspective on his life and work. In his essay Live or Tell, Mr. Weinstein describes the anguish of searching for his marathoner daughter after the Patriot’s Day bombings in Boston. In Unknowing, he reflects on a seemingly-benign drug experiment that turned ugly.

Mr. Weinstein also explores concepts of identity, as in the essay Unchosen, where he recounts his experiences as a Jew growing up in the South.

“This was a tremendous excitement for me, to write about my life,” he said of the process.

Other topics in Soul-Error include Mr. Weinstein’s joy of teaching and his thoughts on growing older.

“I don’t want to die without having said something about what it’s like to be alive,” he said.

Soul Error is available at Edgartown Books and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore. Edgartown Books will host a singing at 2 p.m. on May 22 and Bunch of Grapes Bookstore will host a reading on July 6 at 7 p.m.