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Death and TensesPosthumous Presence in Early Modern France$
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Neil Kenny

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754039

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198754039.001.0001

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(p.231) 15 Montaigne
Death and Tenses

Neil Kenny

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Essais, Michel de Montaigne, posthumous presence, tense, Marie de Gournay

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