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Language and Human Action

Conceptions of Language in the "Essais</I> of Montaigne

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Richard A. Watson

Certainly the most elaborate single extant monument of Renaissance French prose literature, Michel de Montaigne's Essais presents a subject matter that often discusses and analyzes concepts of language in general as well as language as a vehicle of its own expression. This study addresses the author's exploration of the dedalus of language as he ambles and rambles its roads, streets, and alleys; draws the portrait of his philosophy of language or philology; and concludes his affirmative and positivistic attitude toward language and its literary application or the art and artistry of literature.
The great Renaissance humanist's depiction of language in the Essais is analyzed in this book on the basis of its division among intellectual, moral, and aesthetic aspects. This threefold reduction, finding its derivation in the critical work of Aristotle, Auerbach, and Bowen, is also related to the few particular and the important general critical studies of Montaigne and his vision and use, creation and re-creation of language.