Under Pretext of Praise: Satiric Mode in Erasmus' Fiction
Published: December 1973© 1973
216 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Ebook - PDF
The last decade has seen a renewal of interest in the works of Erasmus. Much has been written on the educational and editorial writings of that great humanist of the northern Renaissance, but relatively little on his fictional work. This book deals with the fiction of Erasmus and what it contains of instruction and delight.
The attention of the study is focused primarily on the four satiric works: The Praise of Folly, the Colloquies, Julius secundus exclusus, and Ciceronianus, although the author, in the process analyzing and appraising, looked for analogues and explanations in the educational exegetical works.
Three aspects of Erasmus' throught are considered. The first is his insistence on man's capacity for betterment through good teaching -- the formal teaching of a preceptor, or the incidental teaching of a good satirist or storyteller. The second is his notion of what man is and to what end he is to be educated. (Man is, of course, bent to knowledge and virtue, but one cannot afford to be too simple in one's appraisal of Erasmus' moral emphases -- the moral life involves both doer and spectator and is strongly dependent on the thinking process, althrough not divorced from the act of willing, and, activated by faith and the grade of God, is never far removed from creed and devotion.)
The third aspect is Erasmus' special use of irony -- an irony both dramatic and satiric -- subtle and various, and doubly pronges so that it punctures what it praises but also questions the too obvious alternative, and leaves the reader pondering the whereabouts of the right and the perimeters of truth. To quote the atuhor: 'It seems to me that the fictional works are the exempla that give life and specificity to the great theories of a great man, and a study of them should not be without interest.'