The first historically and internationally comprehensive collection of its kind, Essayists on the Essay is a path-breaking work that is nothing less than a richly varied sourcebook for anyone interested in the theory, practice, and art of the essay. This unique work includes a selection of fifty distinctive pieces by American, Canadian, English, European, and South American essayists from Montaigne to the present—many of which have not previously been anthologized or translated—as well as a detailed bibliographical and thematic guide to hundreds of additional works about the essay.
From a buoyant introduction that provides a sweeping historical and analytic overview of essayists’ thinking about their genre—a collective poetics of the essay—to the detailed headnotes offering pointed information about both the essayists themselves and the anthologized selections, to the richly detailed bibliographic sections, Essayists on the Essay is essential to anyone who cares about the form.
This collection provides teachers, scholars, essayists, and readers with the materials they need to take a fresh look at this important but often overlooked form that has for too long been relegated to the role of service genre—used primarily to write about other more “literary” genres or to teach young people how to write. Here, in a single celebratory volume, are four centuries of commentary and theory reminding us of the essay’s storied history, its international appeal, and its relationship not just with poetry and fiction but also with radio, film, video, and new media.
Montaigne’s Essays are rightfully studied as giving birth to the literary form of that name. Ann Hartle’s Montaigne and the Origins of Modern Philosophy argues that the essay is actually the perfect expression of Montaigne as what he called "a new figure: an unpremeditated and accidental philosopher." Unpremeditated philosophy is philosophy made sociable—brought down from the heavens to the street, where it might be engaged in by a wider audience. In the same philosophical act, Montaigne both transforms philosophy and invents "society," a distinctly modern form of association. Through this transformation, a new, modern character emerges: the individual, who is neither master nor slave and who possesses the new virtues of integrity and generosity. In Montaigne’s radically new philosophical project, Hartle finds intimations of both modern epistemology and modern political philosophy.
Montaigne in Motion
Jean Starobinski University of Chicago Press, 1985 Library of Congress PQ1643.S7413 1985 | Dewey Decimal 844.3
Educated in the humanities and trained in psychiatry, Jean Starobinski is a central figure in the Geneva School of criticism. His classic work, Montaigne in Motion, is a subtly conceived and elegantly written study of the Essais of Montaigne, whose deceptively plainspoken meditations have entranced readers and stimulated philosophers since their first publication in 1580 and 1595.
Here Starobinski offers a decidedly postmodern reading of Montaigne. In chapters dealing with the themes of public and private life, friendship, death, the body, and love, Starobinski reveals much that will remind us that Montaigne’s thought is as apropos to our time as it was to his own.
“The most important contribution to Montaigne studies since Friedrich’s work . . . . [It] will be the critical framework in which scholars will discuss Montaigne in the years to come.”—Choice
“Starobinski brings Montaigne to life by treating him as our contemporary and asking him modern questions.”—Hudson Review
From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, Europeans struggled to understand their identity in the same way we do as individuals: by comparing themselves to others. In Savages, Romans, and Despots, Robert Launay takes us on a fascinating tour of early modern and modern history in an attempt to untangle how various depictions of “foreign” cultures and civilizations saturated debates about religion, morality, politics, and art.
Beginning with Mandeville and Montaigne, and working through Montesquieu, Diderot, Gibbon, Herder, and others, Launay traces how Europeans both admired and disdained unfamiliar societies in their attempts to work through the inner conflicts of their own social worlds. Some of these writers drew caricatures of “savages,” “Oriental despots,” and “ancient” Greeks and Romans. Others earnestly attempted to understand them. But, throughout this history, comparative thinking opened a space for critical reflection. At its worst, such space could give rise to a sense of European superiority. At its best, however, it could prompt awareness of the value of other ways of being in the world. Launay’s masterful survey of some of the Western tradition’s finest minds offers a keen exploration of the genesis of the notion of “civilization,” as well as an engaging portrait of the promises and perils of cross-cultural comparison.