Reading, Writing, and Erasmus (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a late-spring 2010 seminar led by Kathy Eden.

Scholarship on early modernity routinely identifies the reading and writing practices of Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries as Erasmian. This identification is fitting in that Erasmus, arguably the most widely read author of the period, not only devoted his own career to these two practices but also staked his livelihood on reforming them for others, especially the young. As part of this reform, Erasmus recommended good reading habits as the complement to good writing. Taking this complementarity as its point of departure, this seminar explored how the rhetorical structures and strategies that shape an Erasmian education inform both Erasmus’ own literary production and the principles and practices of Erasmian hermeneutics. In addition to selected letters from Erasmus’ vast correspondence, readings included educational, literary, and theological works, among them On the Method of Study, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, On the Writing of Letters, Adages (selections), The Colloquies (selections), The Antibarbarians, The Ciceronianus, The Enchiridion, The Paraclesis, and The Paraphrase on Romans. All are available in English translation. Participants’ projects opened up additional avenues of inquiry.

Director: Kathy Eden, Chavkin Family Professor of English and Professor of Classics at Columbia University, is editor of the Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook and author of several works on Erasmus, including Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition: Chapters in the Ancient Legacy and its Humanist Reception (1997), Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property and the “Adages” of Erasmus (2001) and “From the Cradle: Erasmus on Intimacy in Renaissance Letters,” Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook, 21 (2001). Erasmus also features in her current book-length study in preparation, entitled “The Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy.”