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The Praise of Folly and Other Writings (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0393957495 ISBN-10: 0393957497 Edition: Critical edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Critical edition edition (October 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393957497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393957495
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Robert M. Adams was Professor of English (Emeritus) at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was the author of many books, including Ikon: John Milton and the Modern Critics; Strains of Discord; Proteus, His Lies, His Truth: Discussion of Literary Translation; The Land and Literature of England; and Shakespeare—The Four Romances. In addition to the Norton Critical Edition of Utopia (he was translator and editor of the First and Second Editions), Professor Adams was editor of five other Norton Critical Editions, including The Prince by Machiavelli, Candide by Voltaire, and The Praise of Folly and Other Writings by Erasmus, the texts of which he also translated. He was a founding editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 34 customer reviews
Reading this book can make you human again.
Mark Valentine
Understand Erasmus and understand a wisdom that defied an age of stupidity.
Ailene Isaf
HIs letter to Martin Dorp is an excellent example.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 1509 Erasmus wrote Praise of Folly for the amusement of his learned friend Thomas More (author of Utopia). He wrote in the character of Folly, daughter of Money and Youthfulness. Folly declaims on the foibles of mankind-- sometimes in a light and humorous vein and sometimes taking careful and deadly aim at beliefs and abuses of the time.
One of the wonderful things about reading historical satire is that you get a sense both of the specificity of the time it was written in as well as of the general and enduring idiocies of mankind. Praise of Folly is a great book because it is equal parts familiar (railing about the pedantic nature of scholars) and exotic (discussing the interaction of church and heretics). The book is published together with the Letter to Martin Dorp, defending Praise of Folly to Dorp against charages of being insulting to theologians in general.
The Radice translation is clear, and blessedly puts the notes at the bottom of each page, making them readable. The book also comes with a context-providing introduction and bibliography.
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Mark Valentine on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Searching for happiness is a full-time job for me and it seems that almost 500 years ago--Erasmus wrote this book in 1511--others were looking for it too. They called it The Good Life ("summum bonum") then, and the ship of fools that were searching for it had completely booked its passage. Today, it's the same.
Erasmus doesn't let up. He catalogs every type of fool, every kind of folly, and has room to spare. Reading this funny, I mean, profound book, has given me a new respect for those idiotic life decisions I have made. Looking back over the grand scheme of it all...yikes! I can't believe I did that, said that, acted like that!
I highly recommend this satire for teachers, politicians, priests, professors, administrators, managers, Rotarians, poets, grave diggers, and anyone else tempted toward hypocrisy (and if you think you aren't tempted, I mean you most of all).
Reading this book can make you human again. And that is the first step toward the good life.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Van Wagoner VINE VOICE on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stumbled upon Erasmus while reading Durant's Reformation volume of the Story of Civilization, and later while reading Johnson's History of Christianity. Both authors were rightly impressed with the great influence he had on the Christian world prior to and during the time of the reformation. I had previously known that Luther and Calvin were the major players in the reformation but hadn't realized that so many characters prepared for it and also tried to temper the violent outcomes. Erasmus stood out for me as an intriguing person that I wanted to learn more about. As a result, I purchased this book to get a sample of his writings.

This book of just over 300 pages contains as its major work "The Praise of Folly". This satirical gem has Folly incarnated as a type of a classical goddess discussing the virtues of folly and using various classical and everyday examples to justify why folly is such a good thing. Fortunately, the compiler has footnotes to explain the classical references to those not familiar with most of them; this helped me a lot.

There follows the brilliant anti-war piece entitled "The Compliant of Peace", where peace is embodied and complains of how he is abused and neglected. Then follows two forewords to his groundbreaking Latin translation of the Greek New Testament, explaining why he did this. I hadn't realized how intense the opposition was. After that we have the hilarious "Julius Excluded from Heaven"; an imagined conversation between Pope Julius and St. Peter at heavens gate. I can see why it was initially published anonymously.

The next section includes four of his Colloquies; very well written and bringing out some good points.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on June 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
A full-front blast against the stupidities of us arrogant humans, with a crazy satirical sense of humor. Erasmus reminds us that we have no freakin' idea why we are here and who we are, so we better be humble and respect each other. "In Praise of Folly" was written during a horse travel from Rome to London, as a gift to Erasmus' close friend Thomas More, who was to die under the axe by orders of his former boss Henry VIII, exactly the kind of lunatic Erasmus pokes fun at in this book.
Erasmus strips naked the vanities of politicians, intellectuals, theologians, poets, monks, priests, Popes, magicians, etc. but the most surprising thing about this book first published in 1511 is its relevance to today's world. It even seems more relevant to our times than to his times!! Think about the celebrity system, when people read about soap-opera "actors'" opinions on God, politics and the environment, etc.
Very funny, very honest, very brave. Just imagine, in those times, stating the stupidity and sinfulness of the Pope no less. Erasmus wrote an extremely refreshing, smart, witty and wise book. If more people read it, the world would be a little less insufferable and more enjoyable. Please don't pay any attention to its age or to its classical references. The marrow of the book is just what you need to relax and see the world like it really is. In case you've ever read a self-help or "excellence" book, you'll never do it again: you'll be laughing your brain out at how shallow and stupid they are. Read it now.
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