The Praise of Folly

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Yale University Press, 2003 - Philosophy - 198 pages
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First published in Paris in 1511, The Praise of Folly has enjoyed enormous and highly controversial success from the author's lifetime down to our own day. The Folly has no rival, except perhaps Thomas More's Utopia, as the most intense and lively presentation of the literary, social and theological aims and methods of Northern Humanism. Clarence H. Miller's translation of The Praise of Folly, based on the definitive Latin text, seeks to echo Erasmus' own lively style while retaining the nuances of the original text. In his introduction, Miller places the work in the context of Erasmus as humanist and theologian. In the afterword, William H. Gass playfully considers the meaning, or meanings, of folly and offers fresh insights into one of the great books of Western literature.
 

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Contents

THE PRAISE OF FOLLY
7
ERASMUS LETTER TO MARTIN DORP 1514
139
AN AFTERWORD TO THE PRAISE OF FOLLY
175

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About the author (2003)

Desiderius Erasmus was born, probably in 1469, in Rotterdam, Holland. He studied in Paris, traveled in England, Germany, and Italy, and wrote in Latin. Living at the time of the Renaissance when most intellectual concepts were being examined, Erasmus was a great admirer of the ancient writers and edited many of their works. Erasmus remained a Roman Catholic, but believed that many of the priests and theologians had distorted the simple teachings of Jesus. He published an edition of the New Testament-the first edition in the original Greek-in order to make clear the essential teachings of Christianity. Erasmus liked above all things clear and honest thinking; he despised intolerance and persecution. He was the greatest of the humanists because his books, more effectively than any others, propagated a humane philosophy of life, teaching that one's chief duties are to be intelligent, open-minded, and charitable. The most famous and the most influential of Erasumus' books were The Praise of Folly (1509) and Colloquies (1518). These works, written in lively, colloquial, and witty Latin, expressed his ideas on the manners and customs of his time. Erasmus exerted a powerful influence not only through his books, but also through the private letters that he wrote to a great number of humanist scholars in all parts of Western Europe. He carried on extensive correspondences with Thomas More of England. More than 1500 of his letters survive today. Erasmus died in Basel, Switzerland, on July 12, 1536.

Clarence H. Miller is professor emeritus in the Department of English at St. Louis University.

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