French and Italian | Erasmus in Europe
F620 | 2527 | Prof. MacPhail


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.)