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Erasmus Birthday Lecture 2015

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Erasmus’ personae between Rhetoric and Dialectics

image of Erasmus Studies

Erasmus’ famous elusiveness can be linked to a marked preference for media and genres that allowed for a persona, a mask, behind which the ‘real’ Erasmus could disappear at will. This article seeks to identify the literary, rhetorical and above all dialectical patterns Erasmus made use of in order to separate man and argument and to distance speaker and enunciation. This does not only refer to Erasmus’ familiarity with satirical and rhetorical devices, but also to his ingenious emulation of debating techniques that were common practice among the schoolmen he attacked so fervently. Erasmus’ famous ambiguity and eel-like quality is, at least in some high-profile cases, owed to his ambition of establishing declamation as an equivalent to scholastic controversial formats. Some of his most famous texts are testimony to the attempt of constructing a debating arena in print.

Affiliations: 1: Freie Universität Berlin


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