This witty, influential work by one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance satirizes the shortcomings of the upper classes and religious institutions of the time. The most effective of all Erasmus's writings — ripe with allusions, vignettes, and caricatures — the literary gem was not only an extremely intelligent and articulate response to pretentiousness of all sorts, it also proved to be spiritual dynamite, leaving monastic brothers and clergymen the objects of universal laughter. The book's purported narrator, the goddess Folly, proclaims herself to be the daughter of Youth and Wealth, nursed by Drunkenness and Ignorance. She is accompanied by such followers as Self-love, Pleasure, Flattery, and Sound Sleep. A clever mix of drollery and fantasy, fast-paced and lighthearted in tone, the work has proved to be a lively and valuable commentary on modern times. It remains, according to the great Dutch historian John Huizinga, "a masterpiece of humour and wise irony … something that no one else could have given to the world."
Erasmus of Rotterdam (c. 1466-1536) is one of the greatest figures of the Renaissance humanist movement, which abandoned medieval pieties in favour of a rich new vision of the individual's potential. Praise of Folly, written to amuse his friend Sir Thomas More, is Erasmus's best-known work. Its dazzling mixture of fantasy and satire is narrated by a personification of Folly, dressed as a jester, who celebrates youth, pleasure, drunkenness and sexual desire, and goes on to lambast human pretensions, foibles and frailties, to mock theologians and monks and to praise the 'folly' of simple Christian piety. Erasmus's wit, wordplay and wisdom made the book an instant success, but it also attracted what may have been sales-boosting criticism. The Letter to Maarten van Dorp, which is a defence of his ideas and methods, is also included.
This volume comprises four previously published Erasmian studies and two new works. All are attempts at understanding Erasmus' aims, his influence, and his historical image. Professor Olin's earlier essays have generated enthusiastic responses form the community of Erasmian scholars, and this convenient gathering is bound to be a welcome collection. It also provides the first translation into English of the preface to Erasmus' edition of Hilary. A major statement of his position as a humanist and reformer, it is one of Erasmus' most important contributions. This translation in particular makes this volume a useful complement to Professor Olin's other Erasmian collection listed below.
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