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Montaigne 2

Des Cannibales: seminar 2


Re-read the essay carefully. Read also Montaigne’s preface to the Essais, the Au Lecteur.


1. Background research: find out about the French Wars of Religion; Renaissance humanism


2. Close reading


p. 128 from ‘Je voudrais que chacun écrivît ce qu’il sait…’ to p. 130 ‘fort peu abâtardies par les nôtres.’.


(Use your study skills handbook to help you pinpoint stylistic, rhetorical and structural features in the passage.)


Think about the following

§ What is M’s principal argument in this section of the essay ?

§ How does he present his argument? Is he seeking to persuade? To teach? (think about rhetorical and stylistic devices used; imagery, vocabulary; lexical fields, etc)

§ What is the significance of this passage for the essay as a whole?


Be prepared to make close reference to the text in your answer.


The Au Lecteur and ‘writing the self’


§ How important is first-hand experience to Montaigne’s writing project?

§ In what terms does Montaigne address the reader?

§ Does Montaigne contradict himself in this preface? Why might he do this?


For wider discussion


Choose one of the critical perspectives listed below and discuss its relevance for your interpretation of Des Cannibales:

§ Montaigne as ethnographer

§ Montaigne: teacher or learner?

§ Montaigne as sceptic: the limitations of knowledge

§ The problems of writing and representation


In what ways might this essay be said to show us that learning is an ‘endless process’?

Practice Essay question


In your groups, think about how you would approach the following question. You should prepare a brief plan of your argument and suggest one appropriate secondary source:


To what extent and in what ways is misunderstanding presented as an inevitable feature of human interaction in the texts set for study? Answer with reference to EITHER the Châtelaine de Vergy OR Des Cannibales OR BOTH.