One way of reading a text differently focuses on the frictions and discontinuities within the text. Montaigne's Essais seems an obvious candidate for this kind of reading. Their countless quotations of and allusions to other authors, notorious contradictions, frequent digressions, and insouciant, free-wheeling style suggest that unity and coherence are not their strong suit. The study here aims to explore the role of difference in the Essais and thereby to set in relief some of the assumptions and strategies involved in attempts to reduce it — including those found in the Essais themselves. Two French scholars, Pierre Villey and Fortunat Strowski, proposed that the notorious inconsistencies found in the Essais should be seen as reflecting the evolution of Montaigne's opinions over the twenty-odd years during which he composed his book.
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