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Essay on Erasmus and Praise of Folly

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Desiderius Erasmus wrote his seminal masterpiece of christian humanism “Praise of Folly” in 1511, yet the effects and influence of this small piece of cathartic, witty banter would permeate social consciousness in the european renaissance mind and play a significant role in the revolutionary state of church politics in the days before and after Martin Luther’s reformation. In his mere 40,000 words, Erasmus succeeded in highlighting most of contemporary critical theory about the Catholic church and the state of spiritualism as a whole through the ingenious conceit of the lady, Folly. Folly is the prism through which Erasmus can pass his views unaltered, despite the fact he continued to receive excessive criticism following the publication and was forced to defend himself ceaselessly after it’s incredible popularity, as explained in the successive editions of Listrus’ commentary on Folly that usually accompanied the book. Erasmus’ criticism come from a place however, not of scorn or disdain, but of hope. He remains an ardent catholic despite his criticisms and feels that the majority of issues within his piece stem from those who are actively attempting to subvert christian teaching as opposed to expressing the inherent flaws of the system as a whole. Indeed, even though his colleague, Martin Luther shared many of the same criticisms of the contemporary church, Erasmus could never make the leap of faith into leaving Catholicism for some other purpose. The criticisms were always representative of a higher desire for correction within the church, as though Catholicism and spirituality had strayed from the path, particularly in reference to the misappropriation of praise to Mary and the saints rather than Christ or in the devious natur...


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...March 1994) In Praise of Folly, Guttenberg.
Erasmus, D. (2011) Enchiridion. Theophania Publishing.
Gavin, J.A. and Walsh, T.M. (Summer, 1971) The Praise of Folly in Context: The Commentary of Girardus Listrius, Renaissance Quarterly. Vol. 24. No. 2.
Janin, H.(2008) The University in Medieval Life, 1179-1499. McFarland.
Kréme, E. and Marx, D. (1996). Web Gallery of Art. Marginal Illustration for Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly (1515). www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/h/holbein/hans_y/2drawing/1530/01folly2.html [Accessed 05/11/13]
Kristeller, P. O. (Spring 1970). Erasmus from an Italian Perspective. Renaissance Quarterly.Vol. 23. No. 1.
Levi, A.H.T. (March 1994) Dorp and the Spirituality of Erasmus. Praise of Folly. Penguin Classics.
Pope Pius IX (December 8,1854). Ineffabilis Deus. Papal Encyclicals Online.
www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9ineff.htm [Accessed 05/11/13]





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