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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 127

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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?


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Burke, Peter. Montaigne. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Consists of ten articles devoted to different aspects of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne and his writings. Great resource for students. Each chapter includes its own bibliography, and the whole book is indexed.

Cottrell, Robert D. Sexuality/Textuality: A Study of the Fabric of Montaigne’s Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1981. An advanced study of Montaigne’s writings.

Dikka, Berven, ed. Montaigne: A Collection of Essays. 5 vols. New York: Garland, 1995. A five-part examination of Montaigne. Each volume concentrates on a different topic, such as Montaigne’s rhetoric, sources of his thought, and the relationship between Montaigne and the contemporary reader.

O’Brien, John, and Malcolm Quainton, eds. Distant Voices Still Heard: Contemporary Readings of French Renaissance Literature. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2000. A collection of paired essays on five major authors, including Montaigne.

Paulson, Michael G. The Possible Influence of Montaigne’s “Essais” on Descartes’s Treatise on the Passions. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988. Examines Montaigne’s influence on René Descartes’s philosophy of the passions.

Quint, David. Montaigne and the Quality of Mercy: Ethical and Political Themes in the “Essais.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. This work examines Montaigne’s concern with the ethical basis of society.

Sayce, Richard A. The Essays of Montaigne: A Critical Exploration. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972. An important study on Montaigne’s essays. Very readable.

Schaefer, David Lewis. The Political Philosophy of Montaigne. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990. This book examines The Essays and argues that Montaigne is primarily concerned with political matters. Schaefer portrays Montaigne as a consistent and systematic thinker.

Van Den Abbeele, Georges. Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992. Studies the relation between critical thinking and the metaphor of travel in French Renaissance philosophy. The first chapter concentrates on Montaigne.


Critical Essays