How To Read Montaigne

How To Read Montaigne

by Terence Cave
     
 

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Montaigne (1533-92) is commonly regarded as an early modern sceptic, standing at the threshold of a new secular way of thinking. He is also known for his ground-breaking exploration of the 'subject' or the 'self'. Terence Cave discusses these and other key aspects of the Essais (Montaigne's major work) not as philosophical themes but as features in the mapping of a

Overview

Montaigne (1533-92) is commonly regarded as an early modern sceptic, standing at the threshold of a new secular way of thinking. He is also known for his ground-breaking exploration of the 'subject' or the 'self'. Terence Cave discusses these and other key aspects of the Essais (Montaigne's major work) not as philosophical themes but as features in the mapping of a mental landscape: the project of the Essais is cognitive rather than philosophical. Similarly, he reads the Essais not as 'essays' in the literary sense but as 'trials' or 'soundings' in which the manner of writing - the shape of the sentences, the use of metaphors and other figures - is crucial. Taking passages from many different chapters of the Essais, this book guides the reader through Montaigne's investigation of the 'subtle shades and stirrings' of the mind.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'These [How to Read] books let you encounter thinkers eyeball to eyeball by analysing passages from their work' Terry Eagleton, New Statesman

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781862079441
Publisher:
Granta Books
Publication date:
08/01/2013
Series:
How to Read Series
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)

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Read an Excerpt

‘It is the only book of its kind in the world, wild and extravagant

in conception’ (II.8): this is how on one occasion

Michel de Montaigne describes the extraordinary miscellany

of writings which he first published in 1580 and which he

subsequently elaborated and extended until his death in 1592.

The Essais, as he called it, is a highly original outgrowth of

the humanist, Latin-based culture of late Renaissance France.

Michel de Montaigne’s father engaged tutors to speak Latin to

him from his earliest childhood, so that he was virtually bilingual

in French and Latin. His family had made its money in

trade and its aristocratic title was only recently acquired; he

himself had legal training and occupied prominent positions in

the local judiciary and administration. Some three years after

his father died in 1568, he gave up these public duties, at least

for a while, in order to devote himself to his domestic responsibilities.

This ‘retirement’ also had another purpose, however:

it gave him leisure to read, reflect and write, and within a

remarkably short time he was beginning to compose fragments

of what would become the Essais, the only original

composition that he published during his lifetime.

Meet the Author


Terence Cave is Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford,  Emeritus Research Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance and other studies in early modern French culture.

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