Erasmus and Voltaire: Why They Still Matter
Despite comparisons between Erasmus and Voltaire having become common-place in the course of the nineteenth century, this is the first full study to bring them together in their careers, their works, and their historic afterlives. Each was a force for change in his time and thus ranks among the masters of modern liberalism. Beginning with the continuities between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, award-winning scholar Ricardo J. Quinones joins Erasmus and Voltaire as voices of moderation and reason that remain capable of addressing the philosophical crises of twentieth-century thought.
A companion piece to Dualisms, Quinones' 2007 book, Erasmus and Voltaire differs in method: where its predecessor looked to inveterate, unyielding differences, this new work looks to similarities. In delving beneath the obvious differences between these two intellectual giants, Quinones uncovers the great practical and spiritual vocations that unite them.
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- Page Count: 242 pages
- Dimensions: 5.8in x 0.6in x 9.0in
'Quinones's book is a superb piece of work that will appeal not only to scholars but also to the learned general reader. Juxtaposing the lives and writings of Erasmus and Voltaire, Quinones makes good on his claim that comparison brings an added dimension to entities by drawing them into a new web of relationships.
'[Quinones's] comparisons are subtle and nuanced, and his methodology sound. He rigorously ties psychological readings to text-critical analyses and has an admirable grasp of the mentalité of the two movements, humanism and Enlightenment, represented by the protagonists ... The book has many commendable features. It showcases the author's erudition and his impressively broad reading. It offers original and insightful interpretations of the writings of Erasmus and Voltaire and argues them convincingly.'
Renaissance Quarterly, Fall 2010 (63:03:10)
‘Subtle and grounded in historical and biographical events … Erasmus and Voltaire: Why They Still Matter is a book to be read by both Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars.’
Erasmus Society Yearbook
‘Deploying a magisterial command of the literary, historical, and philosophical scholarship ... Quinones finds in the dualisms and skeptical optimism of Erasmus and Voltaire a relevance that resonates with the modern world.’
Thomas L. Cooksey
South Atlantic Review
'Cultural history, comparative literature, historical typology and intellectual history all in one, Erasmus and Voltaire is Ricardo J. Quinones's summa—an impassioned celebration of two literary giants. In a series of powerful and close readings of Erasmus and Voltaire, Quinones reflects on the modern condition with penetrating ancillary commentaries that range from Shakespeare to Thomas Mann. Writing with the urgency and fervor of a pamphleteer, the author calls for a restoration of the courage, benevolence, imagination, gradualism, sanity, and ultimate illumination that we discover in his two subjects. This is a book that should be read by all literary scholars, historians, philosophers—and statesmen!'
Paul Barolsky, Art History, University of Virginia
'Extremely worldly and sophisticated, Erasmus and Voltaire both engaged with the most important ideas of their times. Champions of civilization and tradition, they were revolutionary in some ways, but ready to hold the line in contradistinction to the more rebellious ideologues of their time. It is always a pleasure to read the work of Ricardo J. Quinones, and this fine study brings to light the parallel development of these two figures, with a clarity and appeal I have never before seen in writing on either Erasmus or Voltaire.'
David M. Hertz, Department of Comparative Literature, Indiana University
'Ricardo Quinones, the principal proponent of "Dualisms," that fascinating category of intellectual rivalry, has written a complementary book bringing together figures of similar type living centuries apart. His expectation that this comparison will enhance the importance of both his exemplars, Erasmus and Voltaire, is amply realized.'
Eva Brann, Senior Faculty and Dean Emerita, St. John's College
Author InformationRicardo J. Quinones is a professor emeritus in the Department of English at Claremont McKenna College.
Table of contents
List of Abbreviations
1 Names for Bastards
2 England, always England
Works: Children of a Fortunate Hour
3 Erasmus's Letter to van Dorp and Voltaire's Letter to Rousseau
4 Works Finding Their Ways
5 The Survivors: Praise of Folly and Candide
6 Never a Peace: 'Thus always Cain or Abel'
Epilogue: Recurrence and Recognition
Subjects and Courses