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The Miraculous Versatility of Apophthegms

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Apophthegms circulated not only in collections, but also as parts of all sorts of texts. This article explores the relation between apophthegm and context in passages from Erasmus’ correspondence, Declarationes (1532), and Ecclesiastes (1535). From the point of view of the reader, the apophthegm is a surprising illustration of the argument. For the author, however, it may have been the starting-point of a passage, as appears from Erasmus’ De conscribendis epistolis. In his dedicatory letter to his own collection of apophthegms (1531), Erasmus stresses that these anecdotes offer more philosophy than one may suspect at first sight. This is corroborated by the passages discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Independent scholar, Leiderdorp


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