During the Renaissance, different conceptions of knowledge were debated. Dominant among these was encyclopaedism, which treated knowledge as an ordered and unified circle of learning in which branches were logically related to each other. By contrast, writers like Montaigne saw human knowledge as an inherently unsystematic and subjective flux. This study explores the tension between these two views, examining the theories of knowledge, uses of genre, and the role of fiction in philosophical texts. Drawing on examples from sixteenth and seventeenth- century texts, and particularly focusing on the polymath BA(c)roalde de Verville, Kenny provides an in-depth study of the two competing conceptions of knowledge.
`Kenny's study is thorough, precise, lucid and elegant. ... combines a literary with a philosophical approach to 'erolade's texts ... Kenny's study, which makes unobtrusive use of literary theory, from Bakhtin to Derrida, is very much of the 1990s in its concern with subversion and contradiction ... As Kenny demonstrates ... these were the concerns of the 1590s as well. ... persuasive and perceptive study'
Peter Burke, Times Literary Supplement
`Measured and well-balanced treatment of the writer ... The study is well documented with an impressive European-wide range of reference, its conclusions finely nuanced and well supported. Dr. Kenny has been very well served by his publisher too. Nothing has been skimped in the production of the book which has six illustrations, abundant footnotes, three useful appendices, a full bibliography and index. In short, this is a pleasing and valuable contribution
to our knowledge of a period of literary and intellectual history perhaps too often overlooked in the past.
Pauline M. Smith, Hull, D'Humanisme et Renaissance, tome 5, 4 1992
`Kenny's erudition is impressive, and he offers many rich insights into the intellectual milieu of the late Renaissance, especially in France. His stress on the interrelatedness of philosophy and fiction deserves close attention.'
Robin B. Barnes, The Sixteenth Century Journal XXIII/3 92