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The Discussion as Joust: Parrhesia and Friendly Antagonism in Plutarch and Montaigne

The Discussion as Joust: Parrhesia and Friendly Antagonism in Plutarch and Montaigne ScoTT fraNciS Parrhesia and Friendly Antagonism in Plutarch and Montaigne No single word in the English language fully reflects the polysemy of the Greek term agn, which denotes the entire gamut of struggles from combat to athletic contests. Antagonism, then, is defined less by the origin or the nature of its conflict than by the mutual resistance implied by its etymology and its prefix. The term "antagonistic" may thus be used to describe opposition not only between enemies, but between friends. It is just such a friendly antagonism that Michel de Montaigne (1533­1592) describes in the eighth chapter of Book Three of his Essays, "Of the art of discussion" ("De l'art de conferer"), proposing a markedly agonistic conception of discussion as a heated and even violent struggle between two parties (Pesty 119). This chapter and the vigorous, yet well-intentioned and introspective give-andtake it prescribes have typically been regarded as a rejection of scholastic disputation and as a model for conversation in the classical era in keeping with Pascal's description of Montaigne in "De l'esprit géométrique" ("Of the Geometrical Mind") as "the incomparable author of the art of discussion" (357; trans. mine).1 A number of critics, especially Vivien Thweatt, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

The Discussion as Joust: Parrhesia and Friendly Antagonism in Plutarch and Montaigne

The Comparatist , Volume 37 (1) – May 12, 2013

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University of North Carolina Press
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Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
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1559-0887
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Abstract

ScoTT fraNciS Parrhesia and Friendly Antagonism in Plutarch and Montaigne No single word in the English language fully reflects the polysemy of the Greek term agn, which denotes the entire gamut of struggles from combat to athletic contests. Antagonism, then, is defined less by the origin or the nature of its conflict than by the mutual resistance implied by its etymology and its prefix. The term "antagonistic" may thus be used to describe opposition not only between enemies, but between friends. It is just such a friendly antagonism that Michel de Montaigne (1533­1592) describes in the eighth chapter of Book Three of his Essays, "Of the art of discussion" ("De l'art de conferer"), proposing a markedly agonistic conception of discussion as a heated and even violent struggle between two parties (Pesty 119). This chapter and the vigorous, yet well-intentioned and introspective give-andtake it prescribes have typically been regarded as a rejection of scholastic disputation and as a model for conversation in the classical era in keeping with Pascal's description of Montaigne in "De l'esprit géométrique" ("Of the Geometrical Mind") as "the incomparable author of the art of discussion" (357; trans. mine).1 A number of critics, especially Vivien Thweatt,

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 12, 2013

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