Montaigne scholarship has traditionally drawn its impetus from the identification of life and work and its sense of the overwhelming presence of Montaigne as the subject of his text. Bolstered by the essayist's own protestations of sincerity, of good faith and mutual trust between writer and reader, scholars have read the first-person discourse as affirming the truth of the “I” inside the writing and its unequivocal coincidence with its historical referent. The authorial voice announcing itself as self-portraiture, bearing its own name, has been taken to represent the man, his character and ideas, and to reflect the broader sixteenth-century intellectual and social context.
This long-standing reading practice, with its conviction of mimesis, has undoubtedly achieved useful biographical and historical results. Scholars interested in the evolution of Montaigne's thought have shed light on his mode of composition through textual accretion by studying the successive additions and emendations which are identified as strata in the body of the work: A(1580, 1582), B(1588), C(after 1588).