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Erasmus: The Praise of Folly

A D Nuttall

In this previously unpublished paper A.D. Nuttall sets out to explore the similarities and differences of literary approaches to the praise of folly. From Dostoevsky’s ‘stinking Lisavita’ of The Brothers Karamazov he whisks the reader back in time to critique the locus classicus of the subject - Erasmus’s Renaissance best-seller The Praise of Folly.

Along the way he counters the view of fellow academic Walter Kaiser that Erasmus’s work is purely ironic, a kind of double bluff, that, as Folly herself is the praiser of folly, the work in itself must actually be a celebration of wisdom. Nuttall unties the logical knots in Kaiser’s argument, freeing Erasmus’s assertions and suggestions for wider discussion and leading to the controversial possibility that The Praise of Folly is not consistently logical, but is perhaps a more interesting work because of that.

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