Montaigne, Michel de (1533–1592)

Michel de Montaigne was a leading writer of the French Renaissance. Montaigne was the originator and chief popu-larizer of the essay as a self-conscious literary form; his most important work, his collected Essais, was tremendously influential in shaping Western thought and letters for the last 400 years. In his essays, Montaigne attempted not only to understand the world around him, but also to understand himself, the nature of man in general, and the peculiarities that made him who he was. His focus on the individual spirit, and the individual voice, was characteristic of Renaissance humanism. Montaigne's intense originality and devotion to the study of the self place him in the first rank of individualist thinkers.

Montaigne's individualism did not drift into a dogmatic egotism, however, ...

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