HUMS 413, Interpretations - Montaigne’s Essays

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:00-2:15

Course Description:

This course will offer a close reading of the Essays by Michel de Montaigne (1533-92).  The Essays are commonly considered a classic text of European early modernity.  Some (but by no means all) of the topics engaged in the Essays include autobiography and the discovery of the self, freedom of thought and toleration, individualism, the role of nature and the body, custom and the limits of rationality, otherness and diversity, experience, and moderation.  An important theme to be examined will be the politics of the Essays.  The course will include some brief selections from contemporary writers who have tried to bring Montaigne into conversation with our present moment.  

Led by:

Giulia Oskian's picture

Professor Giulia Oskian

Giulia Oskian is an Assistant Professor of Political Science. She specializes in political theory and her research interests include early modern and modern political thought, constitutionalism, democratic theory, the history of ideologies, and political psychology. Her book Tocqueville and the Legal Basis of Democracy was published in Italian and is now being translated into English. Currently, she is working on a new project, which explores the role of emotions in political life, studying how emotions inform political judgement and internally curb rationality. She holds a Ph.D. from the Scuola Normale Superiore and, before coming to Yale, was a postdoctoral fellow at Science Po Paris and at Queen Mary University of London, and a Fulbright scholar at Columbia University.

Professor Steven Smith

Steven B. Smith has taught at Yale since 1984 and is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science. His research has focused on the history of political philosophy with special attention to the problem of the ancients and moderns, the relation of religion and politics, and theories of representative government.

His best-known publications include Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism (1989), Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity (1997), Spinoza’s Book of Life (2003), Reading Leo Strauss (2006), and The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss (2009), Political Philosophy (2012), and Modernity and its Discontents (2016) which recently came out in paperback.  You can read about this book and the introductory chapter on the publication page.

Most recently, he has co-edited with Joshua Cherniss The Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin (2018) and is working on a new book In Defense of Patriotism

He is also the Co-Director of Yale’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions (YSCRI) that focuses on the theory and practice of representative government in the Anglo-American world.
He has received several academic awards and prizes including the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize given by Phi Beta Kappa, but is most proud of receiving the Lex Hixon ‘63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences in 2009. He is a die-hard Yankees fan and hopes to be able to play for the team in the next life.