Abstract and Keywords
Monsters take on many roles in Montaigne’s Essays, almost always in novel ways. They do not take on their usual roles as markers of other races, genders, or bodies, as threats or objects of repulsion. Rather, the authorial self and his work are seen as monstrous; Europeans and their culture are seen as monstrous; the knowledge systems that create monsters are themselves monstrous; man’s vanity is monstrous. But most of all, the monster is the provocation to meditation on man’s presumption, and on the limitations of human knowledge and power in the face of the world and the divine. As the sign of the diversity and mutability of the natural world and thus of divine omnipotence, the monstrous and unusual is valued by Montaigne over the normal or usual. It is also the mark of human creativity, dependent as it is on the vagaries of the imagination, new and radically different from the rhetorical, literary, and artistic norms. This is why the Essays themselves can be considered a monstrous work.
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