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An Errant EyePoetry and Topography in Early Modern France$
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Tom Conley

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816669646

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816669646.001.0001

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Montaigne and His Swallows

Montaigne and His Swallows

(p.177) 6 Montaigne and His Swallows
An Errant Eye

Tom Conley

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the Essais of Michel de Montaigne, particularly the Apologie de Raimond Sebond, a piece that reflects on the frailty of human reason through determining whether swallows surpass humans in their sense of space and place. When Montaigne looks at the swallows he revives the memory of his task of translating Raimond Sebond’s Theologia naturalis. Inverse to Sebond, who had established the medieval world picture and chain of hierarchies stretching from inert forms to animals and then from humans to God, Montaigne thrusts man back to the bottom of creation. He crushes human presumption and vanity through appeal to every type of reason that had been collected in Sebond’s treatise. The conflicting orders of knowledge that inhabit the subject inspire a micropractice or topography that translates the plan of a self-enclosing macrospace that swallows and reconfigures inherited cosmic diagrams.

Keywords:   Essais, Michel de Montaigne, Apologie de Raimond Sebond, human reason, swallows, Raimond Sebond, Theologia naturalis, topography, macrospace, cosmic diagrams

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