EMERG ONLINE: Montaigne and the Essay in England
02 December 2020, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm
This meeting of the UCL English Early Modern English Reading Group will consider the various interpretative challenges posed by the Essays, and how their English readers and editors grappled with their manifold, Protean form
Which to discover this great Potentate,
This Prince Montaigne (if he be not more)
Hath more adventur'd of his owne estate
Than ever man did of himselfe before:
And hath made such bolde sallies out upon
Custome, the mightie tyrant of the earth,
In whose Seraglio of subjection
We all seeme bred-up, from our tender birth…
(Samuel Daniel, 1603)
Following their publication in John Florio’s English translation in 1603, Michel de Montaigne’s Essays shortly became some of the most widely read texts in seventeenth-century England. Their influence can be seen in some of the period’s most significant authors, from Shakespeare to Bacon, and, throughout the twentieth century, were frequently read as encapsulating the self-conscious, sceptical, introspective consciousness of the age — as embodying, in other words, all that is modern about the early modern world.
This meeting of the English Department’s Early Modern English Reading Group will consider the various interpretative challenges posed by the Essays, and how their English readers and editors grappled with their manifold, Protean form. How far was Montaigne an author that English writers could imitate? What kinds of enquiry was the essay suited to? Was there, in Renaissance England, a widely-accepted view of Montaigne’s literary and intellectual significance, or of his usefulness to the reader? Among the authors discussed will be included John Florio, Samuel Daniel, Margaret Cavendish, and Abraham Cowley.
This event will run via Zoom - the link will be circulated via the EMERG mailing list.
For more information, and to be added to EMERG’s mailing list, please contact Fraser McIlwraith (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kate Kinley (email@example.com). We are keen to accept submissions in advance in advance of our meetings, so if you would like to recommend an extract from a Renaissance text, please contact us.