Penn State

Jean-Claude Vuillemin - Professor of French Literature, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Les Essais

Author: Michel de Montaigne

Book Description:

One of the most dazzling minds of the Renaissance --'founder of discursivity' to borrow Michel Foucault's neologism for powerfully original thinkers-- Montaigne has paved the way to transform my conceiving of central issues of the Western philosophical tradition: the status of representation and of imitation, the nature of language and the function of rhetoric, the problematic of the subject. He has shown truth to be a thing of this world --produced, sustained and managed by strategies of power, as Foucault will add-- the relativity of civilizations and the elusive nature of personal identity, the capacity of the written word to embody being, plenitude, and presence. In Montaigne's self-reflexive and encyclopedic Essays I find myself before a distant yet pertinent textual expression that allows me to gain understanding of my own critical activity and to situate myself theoretically. Few authors of the beginning of the baroque area speak to us as directly and immediately as Montaigne does. I consider Montaigne a contemporary fellow whose name engraved on Burrowes Building east frieze is a constant reminder that, indeed, I've got a friend in Pennsylvania.

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