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In The Lifted Brow #23, we published Ellena Savage’s column on subjectivity in the essay, ‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’. Shortly afterwards, Sean M Whelan’s spoken word response, ‘How Much Do Your Words Weigh?’, appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital. Now, we are republishing these two pieces along with Maggie Alden’s ‘Click, Read, React’, a meditation on the nature of reading online.
‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’, by Ellena Savage
Archangel or whore
[she] don’t mind
All the roles
Are lent to [her]
—Laure (Colette Pieignot), [ed. Ellena Savage]
essayer: French, to attempt, to exercise, to test, to experiment.
Michele de Montaigne cannot keep his subject still. “It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness.” He takes it on this condition, he writes, just as it is at the moment he gives his attention to it. He does not portray being: he portrays passing.
The progenitor of the essay, de Montaigne, wrote his seminal three collections of essays, eventually numbering a thousand pages, across twenty years. During these two decades, he made corrections, additions, and additional contradictions, as his daily experiences altered his outlook on things. He never retracted the originally published text, just attached addendums here and there to mark his ever-evolving perspective. While de Montaigne’s compendiums of personal wisdom were widely circulated in late-Renaissance France, and are now canon for scholars and practitioners of the essay, the texts were more or less ignored by the Anglospheric academies and their philosophers during Montaigne’s life, and long afterward.