The second case study of a major vernacular writer is Montaigne. The tenses of his Essais (first published 1580–95) communicate wavering and hesitation as to how much presence to attribute or deny to ancients, to the more recently dead, or to what Montaigne represents as the now-dead phases of his own life. The distinctiveness of his tense-use rests partly on a paradox. On the one hand, his emphasis on the tenuousness or even the non-existence of the present moment leads him to use the Présent in a way that drains its referents of stable content. Yet, on the other hand, this very undermining pulls readers with unusual power into a communing with this now-dead author.
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