Comparative Literature | Erasmus and Europe
C525 | 1238 | Eric MacPhail


M  3:35-5:30    BH 141
Erasmus and Europe

This course will attempt a comprehensive study of the work of the
Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus.  In addition to reading
several of Erasmus' own dialogues, declamations, letters, and adages,
we will also consider his antecedents in Italian humanism and his
influence on French and Spanish vernacular literature of the sixteenth
century.  Above all, we will focus on the convergence of rhetoric and
theology in Christian humanism, which derives from the identity of
Christ and the logos in the Gospel of John.  In all our reading, we
will be attentive to the pedagogic, satiric, evangelical, and
convivial impulses of Erasmus' work, as we situate him in relation to
the various traditions he inherited from classical and Renaissance
culture, including the rhetorical tradition of Quintilian, the
theological tradition of St. Paul, the comic tradition of Lucian, and
the philological tradition of Lorenzo Valla.  In Erasmus' case, all
these traditions are mediated by an acute historical consciousness
that often defied tradition.  To cover this ground adequately will
require the interdisciplinary cooperation of the course participants
as we work to assemble a complex and authentic image of one of the
most encyclopedic and enigmatic writers of the western tradition.

Books will be ordered in English translation with some material
available on electronic course reserve.  Each student is expected to
do a laconic class presentation and a 15 to 20 page term paper,
written either in English, French, Italian, Spanish, or Silver Latin.
(Copious extra credit for archaisms.)