Most modern critics (even those who have emphasized the `evolution' of Montaigne's ideas) have sought to explain away the contradictions and incoherences of Montaigne's Essais. Distinguo: Reading Montaigne Differently investigates the role of these internal differences in the opinions recorded, in voices and modes of discourse, in logical levels, in conceptions of writing and of reading, through a series of careful, lucid readings of selected passages from the
Essais. The author tracks their operation in Montaigne's text and shows how Montaigne's writing constantly recontextualizes his own discourse (through his practice of interpolating new material in successive editions and adding new chapters) as well as that of other authors (through quotation,
paraphrase, commentary). Rather than merely negative features, the author argues that such `differences' are essential to a practice of writing that both defines and challenges a notion of `unity', and can be seen as an uneasy and disturbing element related to a historical shift from earlier ways of controlling meaning, to one based on `the author function'.This careful and lucid book presents a fresh and significant interpretation of the Essais and shows how Montaigne's
work might profitably and illuminatingly be read in a `different' way.
`Rendall's Montaigne has made difference and distinction in the world, in history, and in his own experience of them, serve him.'
Richard L. Regosin, University of California, Irvine, Philosophy and Literature, 1992
'much of Rendall's approach is applicable to the reading of essays in general ... The bibliography and notes are complete and well presented. The volume is beautifully printed and bound.'
J.E. Parker Jr., Wake Forest University, Choice, Mar '93
'Its main merit is to have reshaped and reinscribed insights into a fruitful and admirably lucid configuration, under the aegis of 'difference'. This has been done with enough explanation of relatively rudimentary points to qualify this highly readable book for recommendation to undergraduates.'
Neil Kenny, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, French Studies, Vol. 47
'original, illuminating, even seminal study ... years of mulling over Montaigne's work have finally enabled him to come to grips with this most slippery of texts, and, in so doing, to produce that coherent reading which, ironically, is predicated upon the very contradictions that had initially led to his frustrations.'
Patrick Henry, Whitman College, Sixteenth Century Journal XXIV/2 (1993)
'Rendall's provocative title implies that his short book will propose a radically new method of reading Montaigne, but its appeal for this reviewer lies rather in its insistence on the old and tried, that is, close reading of individual essays in their Renissance context. These readings are always intelligent, sensitive, and grounded in a thorough knowledge of Classical and Renaissance habits of writing and reading. I recommend this book, not because I find
it reads Montaigne differently, but precisely because it reads him the way I too think he should be read.'
Barbara C. Bowen, Vanderbilt University, French Review
`a welcome addition to his earlier work and to the corpus of Montaigne scholarship. Distinguo: Reading Montaigne Differenty provides a significant and original contribution to Montaigne scholarship, not least for its insightful readings of some of this earlier work. Rendall has an excellent grasp of the Essais, of scholarship on them, and of the subtle differences among seemingly similar critical points of view....fine contribution. The book may mark the
end of one era of Montaigne scholarship and make way for another.'