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Montaigne After Theory / Theory After Montaigne

edited by Zahi Zalloua

Publication Year: 2009

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

Many people made this volume possible. I would like to thank in particular the Dean of Faculty's office at Whitman College for its generous financial support for what began as a conference organized by the College in Walla Walla, Washington, on February 23-24, 2007. ...

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Introduction: What Is Theory?

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pp. 3-18

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the demise of "theory"--along with the alleged return of/to referentiality, the subject, history, and aesthetics-- has become a commonplace in literary studies. But why should the death of theory be a pre-condition for a return to the proper study of literature? ...

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1. From Amateur Gentleman to Gentleman Amateur

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pp. 19-38

It is easy to enumerate the temptations of the biographical genre; harder to resist its enduring attraction. After theory, but no longer innocent from brushes with it, the biographer today distrusts nearly everything about biography: its pretension to "reveal" the intimate, its tendency to fill in gaps, its claim to speak to character.1 ...

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2. Theory and Practice in "Du pedantisme"

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pp. 39-54

In the essay "Du pedantisme," Montaigne asks the somewhat disin genuous question of why humanist pedagogues or "pedantes" have such a low reputation, a reputation that he seeks to confirm by every argument and example at his disposal. To disparage the modern pedants, who are incapable of public service, he contrasts them with the ancient philosophers, who were equally gifted at action and contemplation. ...

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3. Fashion

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pp. 55-74

It is a general calumny (o courageous and warlike nation) paraded throughout Europe that the picture of a naked man with cloth by his side and scissors in his hand to make a garment after his fashion is the picture of a Frenchman. It seems thereby that all nations by common and malicious agreement wished to accuse or blame him alone for inconstancy, as it were an affliction uniquely affecting this fine and most flourishing kingdom...

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4. Duty, Conciliation, and Ontology in the Essais

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pp. 75-99

Historians of the idea of critique, as it manifested itself in Western Europe in general and France in particular, identify its beginnings with the critique of church authority, particularly in the field of biblical hermeneutics developed by humanist theological reformers in the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-centuries. ...

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5. Montaigne Parrhesiastes: Foucault's Fearless Speech and Truth-telling in the Essays

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pp. 100-121

In 1983 and 1984, Michel Foucault delivered a series of lectures at the Collège de France and at the University of California at Berkeley in which he discussed the Greek notion of parrhesia, that is, "frankness in speaking the truth" (in French referred to as franc-parler or dire-vrai, and in English usually translated as "fearless speech")...

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6. "Qu'est-ce que la critique?" La Boétie, Montaigne, Foucault

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pp. 122-141

In the chapter of his Essais entitled "De la diversion," Montaigne contends that diversion--whether unintentional distraction or cultivated digression--offers the most effective strategy for resisting the tyranny of our passions and obsessions. Recounting and endorsing advice on how to avoid erotic tyranny in particular, he writes...

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7. Confession or Parrhesia? Foucault after Montaigne

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pp. 142-160

In the first volume of L'Histoire de la sexualité, Michel Foucault shatters the illusion that speaking the truth about our intimate selves is what we desire but are prevented from achieving by various forms of repression. To demystify the so-called "repressive hypothesis," he looks back to a moment when confession had to be imposed, taught, and extracted by force. ...

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8. Nasty, Brutish, and Long: The Life of Montaigne's Essais in Hobbes's Theory of Contract

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pp. 161-179

The last essay of the Essais is entitled "De l'experience." This fact, albeit obvious, suggests to the modern reader a question about how Michel de Montaigne's work relates to early modern science, and not just because "experience" can mean "experiment." The redefinition of what counts as experience and its epistemological value were major concerns to those who went "the mathematical way" in the Scientific Revolution by holding various fields of research to a standard of mathematical certainty.1 ...

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9. Cannibalizing Experience in the Essais

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pp. 180-201

Anyone who has taught "De l'experience" to undergraduates has probably been asked to explain just what Montaigne means when he tells the reader that he wants to be seen in the Essais in his "simple, natural and ordinary fashion," since his writing style appears to be anything but simple, natural or ordinary. ...

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10. Rereading Montaigne's Memorable Stories: Sexuality and Gender in Vitry-le-François

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pp. 202-217

Studies of sexuality in early modern Europe, whether they lean towards a social constructionist model or towards an essentialist one, must confront the possibility that sexual identity could be read as a component of what Stephen Greenblatt has termed "Renaissance self-fashioning."1 While many theorists, beginning with Michel Foucault, have disputed the idea that sexuality forms a part of Renaissance identity...

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11. Theorizing Sex and Gender in Montaigne

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pp. 218-241

Montaigne's Essais are often considered a forerunner to contemporary or post-structuralist thinking on gender. Most notably, his skeptical, antidogmatic lens functions as a kind of built-in gender-bender: by virtue of examining numerous examples of seemingly odd gendered norms from various cultures, an ontology or perceived naturalness of gender can be disbanded.1 ...

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12. For a Theory of Forms in Montaigne

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pp. 242-252

Theorizing montaigne before Descartes and the birth of modern philosophy is a serious challenge. Indeed, how does one systematize the thought of an author who didn't claim to write anything other than Essais--literally, "attempts," are bound never to quite succeed? From a philosophical perspective, the very form of the essay presupposes its inevitable failure, for otherwise it would no longer be an essai. ...

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13. Fadaises & Dictons

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pp. 253-263

"Montaigne after Theory": the tourniquet that the essays of this volume address beckons a variety of readings. A monument, do the Essais stand over and above the labor and pleasure of theory that flourished in the final quarter of the twentieth century? ...

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14. "Mettre la theorique avant la practique": Montaigne and the Practice of Theory

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pp. 264

"Montaigne after theory, theory after Montaigne." It strikes me, as it struck Derrida at the conference on communication in 1971, where he began his talk entitled "signature événement contexte" by interrogating the subject of the colloquium itself, that the terms of the timely, suggestive, and provocative title of our volume cannot simply be taken for granted, however familiar those terms are, and especially by those of us in sixteenth-century French studies. ...


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pp. 281-302


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pp. 303-307


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pp. 309-315

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800479
E-ISBN-10: 029580047X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988917
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988916

Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Montaigne, Michel de, 1533-1592. Essais.
  • Literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Montaigne, Michel de, -- 1533-1592 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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