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.