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Ancient and Modern

M.A. Screech, 19 November 1981

Masters of the Reformation: The Emergence of a New Intellectual Life in Europe 
by Heiko Augustinus Oberman, translated by Dennis Martin.
Cambridge, 269 pp., £22.50, June 1981, 0 521 23098 5
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by Peter Burke.
Oxford, 96 pp., £5.50, October 1981, 9780192875235
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... Ways can provoke weariness. Medieval and Renaissance scholars know of them but often treat them as peripheral. Yet they dominated university thinking and were not without social and political implications. The Old Way was Realist, teaching that universals have a real existence: the notion ‘Man’ represents something real, individual men are imperfect ...

In search of the Reformation

M.A. Screech, 9 November 1989

The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation 
by Alistair McGrath.
Blackwell, 223 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 631 15144 3
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Pastor and Laity in the Theology of Jean Gerson 
by Catherine Brown.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 521 33029 7
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Collected Works of Erasmus: Vols XXVII and XXVIII 
edited by A.H.T. Levi.
Toronto, 322 pp., £65, February 1987, 0 8020 5602 4
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... of Luther’s which is so violent and so scatological that it still raises hackles or causes embarrassment? Why did a French cardinal encourage him to write that book? And why did that French cardinal later marry and become an Anglican? One thing is certain: those men and women – and many small men and women, cobblers, soldiers, valets, servant-girls ...

Possible Enemies

M.A. Screech, 16 June 1983

Collected Works of Erasmus. Vol. V: The Correspondence of Erasmus 
edited by Peter Bietenholz, translated by R.A.B Mynors.
Toronto, 462 pp., £68.25, December 1979, 0 8020 5429 3
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Collected Works of Erasmus. Vol. XXXI: Adages Ii 1 to Iv 100 
edited by R.A.B. Mynors, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips.
Toronto, 420 pp., £51.80, December 1982, 0 8020 2373 8
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Le Disciple de Pantagruel 
edited by Guy Demerson and Christiane Lauvergnat-Gagnière.
Nizet, 98 pp.
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... studies won him the support of the French King’s sister, Margaret, and ought to have made him a natural ally of Erasmus. He was soon at Erasmus’s throat. I ‘treat Christ with contumely’, Erasmus exploded. He picked over Lefèvre’s worst insults in a letter addressed to Guillaume Budé (who had the ear of the French King): I ‘side with the ...

What mattered to Erasmus

James McConica, 2 March 1989

Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament. The Gospels: Facsimile of the final Latin text with all earlier variants 
edited by Anne Reeve.
Duckworth, 284 pp., £35, March 1986, 9780715619902
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Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theologian 
by Erika Rummel.
Toronto, 234 pp., £24.50, January 1987, 0 8020 5683 0
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A New Rabelais Bibliography: Editions of Rabelais before 1626 
by Stephen Rawles and M.A. Screech.
Droz, 691 pp.
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The Library of Robert Burton 
by Nicholas Kiessling.
Oxford Bibliographic Society, 433 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 901420 42 5
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... is an example. Nevertheless, the symbolic importance of the Novum lnstrumentum in defining the impact of Christian humanism on the intellectual culture of the day is matched by that of no other single work, including his own Praise of Folly. The fact that the editio princeps of 1516 became notorious for its errors, that its very status as an ...

Excessive Guffawing

Gerald Hammond: Laughter and the Bible, 16 July 1998

Laughter at the Foot of the Cross 
by M.A. Screech.
Allen Lane, 328 pp., £30, January 1998, 0 7139 9012 0
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... fated to end up as history’s nearly man. Early in the Reformation, William Tyndale identified him as a permanent dweller in the halfway house, and now even Screech, for all his sympathy for Erasmus’s pioneering humanity, finds him ultimately lacking. In the Praise of Folly and, more ...

A Foolish Christ

James McConica, 20 November 1980

Ecstasy and the Praise of Folly 
by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 267 pp., £24, June 1980, 0 7156 1044 9
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... it is not surprising that the professional defenders of religion have been slow to claim him as their own, nor that his general reputation has been that of the dauntingly witty, erudite and corrosive critic of official belief. For his irenic and rational faith, however, he has received the steady devotion of such as Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, who ...

Homage to Rabelais

M.A. Screech, 20 September 1984

... still can.) His wars are like children’s games: he delighted in games, while seeing most of them as ways of wasting time when extended beyond infancy. Great conflicts, treated this way, become good for a laugh: a therapeutic laugh, Dr Rabelais maintains – making for balance and sanity when seriousness returns. We laugh at the wounded and dying in the war ...

Viva la joia

Roy Porter, 22 December 1983

Montaigne: Essays in Reading 
edited by Gérard Defaux.
Yale, 308 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 300 02977 2
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Montaigne and Melancholy: The Wisdom of the ‘Essays’ 
by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 194 pp., £19.50, August 1983, 0 7156 1698 6
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... that pricker of presumption and pedantry, have been amused, or saddened, to find himself the totem and target of post-structuralist theoretical rigour? That is his fate in the latest Yale French Studies tome. Led by the editor, Gérard Defaux, the authors flick mainstream Montaigne scholarship aside with impatient ...

Rabelais’s Box

Peter Burke, 3 April 1980

by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 494 pp., £35, November 1979, 9780715609705
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... The Symposium, praises his master Socrates, beyond all doubt the prince of philosophers, he compares him, amongst other things, to a Silenus. Now a Silenus, in ancient days, was a little box, of the kind we see today in apothecaries’ shops, painted on the outside with such gay, comical figures as harpies, satyrs, bridled geese, horned hares, saddled ...


Gary Taylor, 9 January 1992

... proper noun ‘Cinna’ is misinterpreted by a plebeian auditory, who attribute to it a political meaning which it does not have. The poet Shakespeare constructs a scenario in which the poet is unmistakably innocent; the poet’s work, unmistakably apolitical; the poet’s intentions, unmistakably clear; the popular reading of the poet, unmistakably ...

Madness and Method

Mark Philp, 3 April 1986

The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... remains to be done, there can be no doubt that the treatment of the mentally ill has advanced immeasurably since the dark days of the 19th century and before, when the mad were chained, whipped, imprisoned in straw-strewn cells, and exhibited to a curious public for the price of a penny. This ‘in-house’ account of the history of psychiatry has been ...

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