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Erasmus and Voltaire

Erasmus and Voltaire: Why They Still Matter

Series: Erasmus Studies
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Erasmus and Voltaire
    Book Description:

    A companion piece toDualisms, Quinones' 2007 book,Erasmus and Voltairediffers in method: where its predecessor looked to inveterate, unyielding differences, this new work looks to similarities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8575-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xviii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Why Erasmus and Voltaire, and why now? To ask these questions is not for the purpose of eliciting as from a prompt sheet a calculated and dutiful response. Rather it is to open up the larger vistas that their presences evoke. From the enormous changes the crisis of the Renaissance provoked down to the hazardous implications of twentieth-century philosophy in Germany and throughout Europe they provide patterns of response. To see them as figures of critical change in the first period extending from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment and as bulwarks of common reason in the second is to express...


    • ONE Names for Bastards
      (pp. 21-34)

      In his brilliant discussion of dualisms, his attempt to get at the ‘radical’ nature of dissimilar personalities, Coleridge dismisses ‘similarity of events and outward actions’ as not being indicative of real resemblance (The Friend1:130). Yet, career episodes can be essentially revealing, particularly when they carry with them deeper motivations and emotional consequences. It is typical of the natures of Erasmus and Voltaire that small, unobtrusive beginnings have their ways of opening out onto larger endings.

      An early ‘outward fact’ that establishes the first affinity between Erasmus and Voltaire is that each changed or altered his name. By itself this...

    • TWO England, Always England
      (pp. 35-64)

      Another major affinity between the two is that protracted stays in England marked genuine turning points and milestones in each of their careers. It was in England during his first visit in 1499 that Erasmus found the recognition he had so earnestly sought; in England Erasmus was ‘discovered’ (Augustijn,Erasmus32). But there is more: in England Erasmus found a circle of highly placed Christian intellectuals who combined learning with piety. He came upon his heart’s desire, that is, a group of enlightened, pious, and learned friends, and in their confluence of interests he gave as much as he received....


    • THREE Erasmus’s Letter to van Dorp and Voltaire’s Letter to Rousseau
      (pp. 67-80)

      In his thin-skinned response to criticism, Erasmus was far from saintly; in fact, as a controversialist he was very imperfect. Of course no one escaped fault-free and unscathed from the bitter controversies of the times, such were the animosities, the personal rivalries, the jealous guarding of status and position, the genuine generational conflicts between innovation and tradition, as well as some just and fearful concerns about the hazards of future change.

      Pitch defiles, and so does controversy. And Erasmus, despite his many winning and edifying arguments, was not always at his best as a controversialist. Three traits emerged as particularly...

    • FOUR Works Finding Their Ways
      (pp. 81-122)

      The comparative method adopted by this study receives its fullest justification in the discussion of Erasmus’sColloquiesand Voltaire’scontes philosophiques. The similarities existing between these genres in the course of their authors’ careers are nothing short of remarkable, and these include how they came, when they came, and what they represented. Reluctantly, if not inadvertently and by accident, Erasmus and Voltaire turned in their later years to styles and genres that would go far in accounting for their acclaim. They thus accomplished individually and apart one of the miracles of literary biography – that which occurs when a noted writer...

    • FIVE The Survivors: Praise of Folly and Candide
      (pp. 123-142)

      Satire is a lesser genre. It is to the great credit of bothThe Praise of FollyandCandidethat they triumph over satire. Satire depends upon the debasement of an object, a practice, or a person. It objectifies and separates the author from his target. Erasmus’s satire derives from situation, where the derelictions are very obvious and dependent upon our awareness of an implied or distinctly stated code of values. The code of values forPraise of Follyhad been provided by the Christian doctrine of theEnchiridion. Quite different in method Voltaire’s satire proceeds by caricature. He decontextualizes,...


    • SIX Never a Peace: ‘Thus always Cain or Abel’
      (pp. 145-176)

      The materials presented thus far provide ample means for bringing together Erasmus and Voltaire and measuring the far-reaching and pertinent nature of their thought. These are clearly not men of a day, or only of their day. In their historical alignments and personal involvements their characters, beliefs, and methods stand clear to view. Expatriated either by choice or necessity, each found refuge and glory in that international republic of letters, of which they were the prime defenders and leaders in their day. And what better phrase to describe the condition of literature today than that of an ‘international republic of...

  9. Epilogue: Recurrence and Recognition
    (pp. 177-194)

    Little did I realize when I set out to restore the dimmed reputations of Erasmus and Voltaire that by its own natural pressures such a necessary act of remediation would become the second complementary volume of a continuing discourse. In the epilogue toDualisms,aware that dualistic presentations had been receiving considerable intellectual attention, with new volumes on the subject appearing virtually on a monthly basis and continuing to do so, I did not wish to preclude such further discussion. In fact, by following the tangled fates and fortunes, even the historical functions of Erasmus and Voltaire, I have added...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-210)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 211-218)
  12. Index
    (pp. 219-222)