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Setting Plato StraightTranslating Ancient Sexuality in the Renaissance$
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Todd W. Reeser

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226307008

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226307145.001.0001

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Reading Sexuality Skeptically in Montaigne

Reading Sexuality Skeptically in Montaigne

(p.284) Chapter Ten Reading Sexuality Skeptically in Montaigne
Setting Plato Straight

Todd W. Reeser

University of Chicago Press

The publication and popularity of Henri Estienne’s Latin translation of Sextus Empiricus’s Outlines of Skepticism allows for a new, skeptical approach to same-sex sexuality that questions its perceived unnaturalness and foreignness. Such an approach is embodied by Michel de Montaigne’s Essays. It is well-known that the French essayist applies a classical skepticism to forms of subjectivity around ethnicity, but his skeptical reading practices can be enlarged to same-sex sexuality. Skeptical approaches to cultural phenomena are easily transferred to same-sex sexuality because they are predicated on questioning the natural through a series of cross-cultural comparisons that reveal the ultimate relativity of culture. In a discussion of hermeneutics in his skeptical manifesto “Apology for Raymond Sebond,” Montaigne specifically critiques translators of Plato for “putting Plato to bed wherever they want,” thus for imposing their own morality and for reading Platonic sexuality anachronistically. But, Montaigne suggests, because they do not apply a skeptical lens to sexuality and do not consider it in a more objective manner, they—not the assumed crazed lovers of boys—are the ones affected as they try to efface the same-sex elements from the corpus.

Keywords:   skepticism, Michel de Montaigne, essays, Apology for Raymond Sebond, of friendship, Greek licentiousness, Sextus Empiricus, nature, outlines of skepticism

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