April 27, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 15

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    Michel de Montaigne:
    Scholars will discuss writings of this French philosopher

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    Some of the world’s leading scholars of 16th- and 17th-century literature and philosophy will meet at the University Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, to discuss the writings of Michel de Montaigne.

    Organized by an interdisciplinary group of University faculty members with support from the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, the Committee on Social Thought, the Divinity School, The Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Chicago Group on Modern France, the Olin Foundation and Montaigne Studies, the conference will provide Montaigne scholars in Chicago an opportunity to interact with distinguished colleagues from the United States and France.

    According to Philippe Desan, the Howard L. Willett Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, Montaigne and Philosophy will be the first conference in several decades to address the philosophical character of Montaigne’s essays. “Because of the nature of his work, most considerations of Montaigne are treatments of the literary aspects of his writing,” said Desan. “However, we also have significant cause to consider Montaigne as a philosopher.

    “The traditional view holds that, philosophically, Montaigne was a skeptic. But there are certainly other issues for us to explore,” he added. “For example, what did philosophy itself mean during the turmoil of the late 16th century? What can we say of the ethical component of Montaigne’s philosophy?”

    The two-day conference will begin Friday, May 5, in Classics 10, 1010 E. 59th St., with a 9 a.m. welcome from Janel Mueller, Dean of the Humanities Division and the William Rainey Harper Professor in English Language & Literature, and Marc Fumaroli, Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures and the Committee on Social Thought.

    Friday’s session will continue with presentations by Edwin Curley, professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan; David Quint, professor of English and comparative literature at Yale University; Jan Miernowski, associate professor of French and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Andre Tournon, professor of French literature at the Universite de Provence; and Charles Larmore, Professor in Political Science and Philosophy at Chicago.

    A reception will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Classics 21 following Larmore’s presentation.

    The conference will reconvene at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 6, in The Franke Institute for the Humanities, Room S-118 in the Joseph Regenstein Library, 1100 E. 57th St. Presenters for the second day of the conference are Marie-Luce Demonet, professor of Renaissance literature and civilization at the Universite de Poitiers; Vincent Caraud, professor of philosophy at the Universite de Caen; Andre Pessel from the Ministere de l’Education Nationale; and Jean Luc Marion, Professor in Philosophy at Chicago. A closing dinner will take place that evening at 8 p.m. at a location to be announced.

    “The University of Chicago holds the fifth largest collection of works by Montaigne in the world,” said Desan. “We are fortunate to have this opportunity to host a group of scholars whose work so strongly illuminates those texts.”

    For more information on scheduled presentations, contact Daniel Garber, the Lawrence Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy, via e-mail at garb@midway.uchicago.edu.