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Distinguo: Reading Montaigne Differently$
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Steven Rendall

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198151807

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198151807.001.0001

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(p.95) 6 Faces
Distinguo: Reading Montaigne Differently

Steven Rendall

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Montaigne's treatment of non-verbal signs, and suggests that his conception of the Essais as a self-portrait is linked to an attempt to limit the diversity of meaning by anchoring it in the body and, more specifically, in the face. Because of its complexity, the metaphor of self-portraiture tends to simplify the problems of linguistic representation and even to suggest that the face may provide a stable foundation for referential language in general. It offers a way of reducing the difference between words and things by suggesting that at least in this special case they are linked by an inherent analogy. It is one reason not only for Montaigne's occasional recourse to this metaphor, but also for the privilege accorded it by his readers down to the present day.

Keywords:   referential language, analogy, Essais, self-portraiture, non-verbal signs

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