Montaigne's Essais (1580-1592) are one of the most remarkable works of the European Renaissance. The Essais' innovative open-mindedness is at odds with the dogmatism and intolerance of their times, the decades of civil and religious wars in France, and their tolerant and searching human questions and ethics of difference remain compelling for twenty-first century readers. But the sceptical open-endedness that vitalizes this writing is also often troubled and troubling: personal losses and the collapse of cultural ideals moved Montaigne to write, and their attendant anxieties are not resolved into tranquil reflection. Unsettling Montaigne reassesses Montaigne's scepticism. Informed by psychoanalytic and related theory, its close attention to Montaigne's complex uses of metaphor illuminates the psychic economy of his scepticism and tolerance and their poetics, while new readings ofhis Essais and other texts reveal the significance of disquieting questions, thought and affect for the ethos his writing fosters. The analysis deals with figures such as cannibals and cannibalism, hunger, shaking, tickling, place, the brother, and haunting in Montaigne's exploration of concepts which tested his understanding and self-understanding. The volume also demonstrates how figuration supports openness to difference for both writer and readers, and is fundamental to this writing's aesthetic, psychic and ethical creativity. Elizabeth Guild lectures in French at the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of Robinson College.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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