The Fabulous Imagination
More than three hundred years before the advent of psychoanalysis, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) embarked on a remarkable quest to see and imagine the self from a variety of vantages. He explored the significance of monsters, nightmares, and traumas; the fear of impotence; the fragility of gender; and the anticipation of death. For Montaigne, imagination lies at the core of an internal universe influencing both the body and the mind. "The fabulous imagination" can be curative, enabling the mind's "I" to sustain itself in the face of hardship. Tracing Montaigne's development of the Western concept of the self, Lawrence D. Kritzman begins with his study of the fragility of gender and its relationship to the peripatetic movement of a fabulous imagination. He then follows with the essayist's examination of the act of mourning and the power of the imagination to overcome the fear of death, and Montaigne's views on philosophy, experience, and the connection between self-portraiture, ethics, and oblivion.