"This is one of the few books on Montaigne that fuses analytical
skill with humane awareness of why Montaigne matters."-Harold
Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale University
"In this exhilarating and learned book on Montaigne's essays,
Lawrence D. Kritzman contemporizes the great writer.
Reading him from today's deconstructive America, Kritzman discovers
Montaigne always already deep into a dialogue with Jacques Derrida
and psychoanalysis. One cannot but admire this fabulous act of
"Throughout his career, Lawrence D. Kritzman has demonstrated an
intimate knowledge of Montaigne's essays and an engagement with
French philosophy and critical theory. The Fabulous
Imagination sheds precious new light on one of the founders of
modern individualism and on his crucial quest for
self-knowledge."-Jean Starobinski, professor emeritus of French
literature, University of Geneva
Michel de Montaigne's (1533-1592) Essais was a profound
study of human subjectivity. More than three hundred years before
the advent of psychoanalysis, Montaigne embarked on a remarkable
quest to see and imagine the self from a variety of vantages.
Through the questions How shall I live? How can I know myself? he
explored the significance of monsters, nightmares, and traumatic
memories; the fear of impotence; the fragility of gender; and the
act of anticipating and coping with death. In this book, Lawrence
D. Kritzman traces Montaigne's development of the Western concept
of the self. For Montaigne, imagination lies at the core of an
internal universe that influences both the body and the mind.
Imagination is essential to human experience. Although Montaigne
recognized that the imagination can confuse the individual, "the
fabulous imagination" can be curative, enabling the mind's "I" to
sustain itself in the face of hardship.
Kritzman begins with Montaigne's study of the fragility of
gender and its relationship to the peripatetic movement of a
fabulous imagination. He then follows with the essayist's
examination of the act of mourning and the power of the imagination
to overcome the fear of death. Kritzman concludes with Montaigne's
views on philosophy, experience, and the connection between
self-portraiture, ethics, and oblivion. His reading demonstrates
that the mind's I, as Montaigne envisioned it, sees by imagining
that which is not visible, thus offering an alternative to the
logical positivism of our age.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy
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