“Why I Paint My Own Portrait” by Michel de Montaigne
What is the significance of the “self” as the subject of an essay? What is required in order for this to be possible? Once we (as members of a culture) come to accept that the “self” may be the subject of an essay, does this in any way shape (or reshape) our understanding of what a “self” is? Explain.
What does Montaigne mean by his assertion that “there is no description so difficult as describing oneself”? (192-3) Do you agree with it? Why or why not?
What is Montaigne getting at when he claims that writing about his self is not primarily a matter of writing about his deeds, but about his “I and my essence”? (193) How does Montaigne respond to the challenge that only the lives of great men are worth being written about? (194) Has his response had any effect on subsequent Western culture? If you believe so, can you give examples?
Does this selection from Montaigne help you understand what it means to be human? Why or why not? Explain.