Montaigne bilingue: le latin des "Essais."
Professor Gray is the author of two major and subtle books on Montaigne already: Le Style de Montaigne (Paris: Nizet, 1958), and La Balance de Montaigne: exagium/essai (Paris: Nizet, 1982). This time, he deals with a topic that has become more and more central in Montaigne studies during the past fifteen years, as intertextuality Intertextuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another. was turned into a key issue in Renaissance studies: Montaigne's quotations, and, more specifically, his quotations from Latin poetry Latin poetry was a major part of Latin literature during the height of the Latin language. During Latin literature's Golden Age, most of the great literature was written in poetry, including works by Virgil, Catullus, and Horace. . The book's first chapter is the only one truly faithful to Gray's title. There, he meditates on a crucial enigma: given that Montaigne tells us that he learned Latin before French, and with a German teacher, what did his Latin sound like? Erasmus recommended a reformation in Latin pronunciation. Did it reach Montaigne? Or did he speak it with the French -- or German -- accent that Erasmus mocked? How good was Montaigne's Latin? He claims to speak and write it excellently, but, surprisingly, he left no work in that language. In fact, despite Montaigne's ample self-portraits, there is no way out of these enigmas.
Gray then has two chapters on Montaigne's quotations in general and their functions in the Essais. While these quotations have been heavily studied, he writes that "no one has been interested in quotation as a scriptural scrip·tur·al
1. Of or relating to writing; written.
2. often Scriptural Of, relating to, based on, or contained in the Scriptures. phenomena, i.e., as one of the ways of writing of the time, and, more specifically, of Montaigne." This depends of course on what one means by scriptural, but Gray's approach is interesting less by its theoretical inspiration than by its careful analysis of many particular instances. Montaigne's quotations, which he rewrites, constitute another, underlying text. Gray lists 17 different textual, or scriptural, functions, and concludes by an interesting digression about the exclusive presence of nature in the Essais through certain quotations, whereas Montaigne never directly refers to nature.
An essential problem, however, is whether Montaigne's readers did unravel his mostly anonymous Latin quotations; that is unlikely and explains that they started being translated and attributed as early as the seventeenth century. The book's most challenging chapter touches upon the obscene quotations in the Essais, a way for Montaigne to hide and suggest, through a quotation and also an allusion al·lu·sion
1. The act of alluding; indirect reference: Without naming names, the candidate criticized the national leaders by allusion.
2. to its original context, what he dared not say in French. If most of the contemporary readers did not understand Latin, then Montaigne is himself the one whom the French equivalent of his quotations would have shocked. Again, Gray proceeds through many careful examples, borrowed in particular from the chapter "Sur des vers vers
versed sine de Virgile," where Montaigne also discusses sexuality explicitly. But, while the chapter is structured around two long and explicit quotations by Virgil and Lucretius, the anonymous quotations that constitute the secondary text are massively from Catullus, Ovid, and Martial. What is quite striking is that most of these quotations, and the most pornographic ones, dealt originally with homosexual love, but Montaigne applies them tacitly tac·it
1. Not spoken: indicated tacit approval by smiling and winking.
a. to heterosexual contexts. With the vogue of textuality Textuality is a concept in linguistics and literary theory that refers to the attributes that distinguish the text (a technical term indicating any communicative content under analysis) as an object of study in those fields. and sexuality, many studies on "Sur des vers de Virgile" were instigated--Gray has another chapter on it--but the close scrutiny of its quotations still yields major conclusions, and Gray is right to claim no critic had yet shown how the two long quotations from Virgil and Lucretius are perverted per·vert·ed
1. Deviating from what is considered normal or correct.
2. Of, relating to, or practicing sexual perversion. by many other quotations that have neither the beauty nor dignity that Montaigne finds in Virgil and Lucretius, so that the title is yet another dissimulation dis·sim·u·la·tion
Concealment of the truth about a situation, especially about a state of health, as by a malingerer. . Concerning the quasi-systematic diversion of homosexual texts to heterosexual contexts, however, there would certainly be more to say.
The last chapter and conclusion draw a parallel between quotations and the fragmentation of the I in the self-portrait, the instability of the writing process, up to the last words Last words are a person's final words before death. For a list of well known last words, see or use the link at right.
Last words may refer to:
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