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Montaigne among the moderns : receptions of the Essais

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By Dudley M. Marchi

Montaigne is one of the most cross-cultural writers ever – both in the assimilation of writings from other cultures into his own work and in the subsequent translations, critical receptions, and creative adaptations of the Essais by other writers throughout the world for the last four hundred years. His work is generally considered as exemplary of the European Renaissance, yet also demonstrates a remarkable relevance to the literary and intellectual activity at the present time. However, whereas there has been an abundance of commentary on Montaigne during the first centuries after his death, much less attention has been paid to his impact on writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly those outside France. This study redresses the imbalance. By establishing a stylistic and ideological relationship between Montaigne’s work and that of such writers as Emerson, Nietzsche, Pater, Woolf, and Sollers, we not only gain a greater appreciation of the richness of the Essays, but also of some of the roots of modernist and postmodernist writing.

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