In writing any essay, some fundamental questions have to be answered. Perhaps, these questions can be applied to your particular situation. The first would be what does the essay have to prove or explain? In order to answer this, examining the requirements of the assignment, speaking with the instructor, or consulting the primary text of the course might be a good way to begin. Defining what has to define your essay would be a beneficial exercise to start any such task. The second issue would be what evidence or analysis do you have and what do you need. Determining this might also help the process of construction of the essay. In the final analysis, ensuring that you know about what must be written and what you have in order to do this would be of vital importance and could help the process of writing this essay.
What do you mean by 'prose'? Do you mean both fictional and non-fictional prose? If so, it seems to me to be too vast a field.
1. In English critical prose, one may begin with T.S. Eliot's essays like 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' and the whole of his 'The Sacred Wood' for that matter and move into the school of New Criticism with the likes of Cleanth Brooks, I.A Richards (practical criticism), William Empson ( Seven Types of Ambiguity) and then move on to the more contemporary critics like Stanley Fish, Northrop Frye, Harold Bloom and then the American Deconstructivists like Paul De Man etc. Terry Eagleton is another important name along with Raymond Williams in the field of socialist theory of literature.
2. Looking at fictional prose, one cannot even begin to map. From Joyce's Dubliners to the late shorter prose of Beckett to Borges's prose-pieces that defy classification to all the Latin American masters of the magic-real like Marquez, Fuentes, Cortazar and so on, the list is simply endless. And I have not taken the novels here.
You can look at the different directions of 20th century prose writing and the development of genres like Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Thriller, Gothic Romances and Detective fiction and the mainstream and the experimental traditions of prose writing, the development of political prose, the evolution of prose style and modernist postmodernist techniques of narration and their philosophical underpinnings.
Modern technological and scientific advance, communist theories, Freudian theories, super realism, sexual perversion and the new psychology of Lawrence, Joyce and Virginia Woolf, have added new dimension to the prose of 20th century. There are innumerable kinds of fiction--romantic, sociological, psychological, stream of consciousness, realistic and naturalistic. As the number of fiction writers, apart from the essayists, are too large, I am restrained to mention only a few important authors.
1. Rudyard Kipling :"Kim" is an adventure story dealing with the life of the Saheb in India. It also presents vivid picture of Indian life--the beasts and jungles of India. His best short stories are:-Plain Tales from the Hills, Soldiers Three, Captain Courageous and the two Jungle Books.
2. Joseph Conrad:-His novels Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, The Nigger of the Narcussius, Nortiomo, The Secret Agent and Chance reveal the conflict between Man and the elements of Nature. Conrad's novels are a reflection of his moral integrity and artistic sincerity.
3. H.G. Wells:-He wrote scientific romances, and sociological novels. He exploited in his novels the contemporary interest in science. Some of his important works are:- The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The First Man in the Moon and Kipps. From Kipps onwards he concentrated on sociological novels like Tono-Bungay, Ann Veronica, Marriage etc.
4.D.H. Lawrence:- A totally psychological novelist. His novel The White Peacock is a story of unhappy human relationship between man and woman. In Sons and Lovers he very deftly handles the Oedipus complex theme
5. James Joyce:- Ulysses is his masterpiece. A Portrait of the Artist Maas a Young n is his autobiographical novel