Montaigne and Brief Narrative Form Shaping the Essay

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-06-14
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
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This is the first book-length study to trace the origin of the essay to the brief narrative tale. While the form of the conte gave shape to the essay, the violence of the times destabilized a known genre to create a new one. It was the disruption of the times and the impact on Montaigne's personal and public life that led to the birth of the new form, a form he so aptly named the essay. Historic events and his reaction to the violence impacted and transformed Montaigne's work. We witness a change from the initial efficient style with which he had set out to interweave his own reflections, self-portraits, and anecdotes with the tales from ancient and contemporary storytellers, poets, and historians. Eventually the growing political disruption pulled Montaigne away from the exemplary claims of the tales to borrow from the more contingent, detailed observations of ethnographers and physicians.

Author Biography

Currently Professor Emerita of French at Arizona State University, USA, Deborah Losse served as Chair of the then Department of Languages and Literatures, now the School of International Letters and Cultures, President of the Academic Senate, Associate Dean of the Graduate College, and Dean of Humanities before her retirement in 2010. She is the author of numerous articles on Renaissance French Literature in Modern Language Notes, Romanic Review, Neophilologus, Medievalia et Humanistica, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Montaigne, Montaigne Studies Allegorica, Symposium, and Poetics Today. Her previous books include Rhetoric at Play: Rabelais and Satirical Eulogy; Sampling the Book: Renaissance Prologues and the French Conteurs. She has contributed chapters to the following volumes: Approaches to Teaching the Heptaméron, ed. Colette H. Winn; Approaches to Teaching the Works of François Rabelais, ed. Todd W. Reeser and Floyd Gray; Renaissance Women Writers: French Texts/American Contexts, eds. Anne R. Larsen and Colette H. Winn; Narrative Worlds: Essays in the Early Nouvelle in 15th and 16th Century France, David LaGuardia and Gary Ferguson, and in La Satire dans tous ses états, ed. Bernd Renner.

Table of Contents

Introduction. The Essay. That Heretical Genre
1. Renewing the Ancients. Montaigne's Retelling of the Tales of Antiquity
2. Recounting Others, Recounting Self. Montaigne and the Conteurs of his Century
3. Rewriting Culture. Montaigne Recounts New World Ethnography
4. 'Se peindre de la plume': History, Biography, and Self-Portraiture in Montaigne's Reframing of History
5. A Storied Life and A Lived Story: Writing Oneself in Montaigne's Essais
6. "Mes ancestres avoient la medecine à contrecoeur ' 'My Ancestors had an Aversion to Medicine': Medical Discourse, Observation, and Self-Portraiture
Conclusion 'Ce fagotage de tant de diverses pieces'/'This Bundle of So Many Disparate Pieces

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