Few historical figures have been more important in modeling the ideal of impartial critical scholarship than Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536). Yet his critical scholarship, though beholden to no one, was not dispassionate. James Tracy shows how Erasmus the scholar sought through his writings to promote the moral and religious renewal of Christian society.
Tracy finds the genesis of the humanist's notion of a "Christian republic" of pious and learned individuals in his "Burgundian," or Low Countries, roots. Erasmus's vision of reform, Tracy argues, sprung from a humanist tradition focusing on the importance of teaching (doctrina), a tradition from which Erasmus departed in his optimism about human nature and his deep suspicion of the powers that be. Amid the storms of Reformation controversy, he pruned back the "dissimulation" by which he had thought to convey different meanings to different readers, yet in the end he could not control the way his words were read. If Erasmus's scholarly ideal carries an enduring fascination, so too does his dilemma as a man of circumspection who would also be a reformer.
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1966.