Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What does the etymology of the word “essay” reveal about the intentions of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne?

Francis Bacon was a contemporary of Montaigne and is also famous for writing essays. How do Bacon’s essays differ from those of Montaigne?

What does Montaigne tell the reader in “Of Cannibals”?

In an essay called “On the Inconsistency of Our Actions,” Montaigne tells readers that they must examine their “innermost recesses,” but then he calls this activity “high and hazardous” and judges that it would be better if “fewer people meddled with it.” Can you resolve Montaigne’s own inconsistency here?

Montaigne tells readers that “It is myself I portray.” This does not seem like an unusual activity today. What made it unusual in the late sixteenth century?