Winter 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 1 Nonfiction |

Erasmus and More: Dialogues with Reality

Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis!"—"Saint Socrates, pray for us!" So exclaims a character in one of Erasmus's colloquies, and, ever since, readers have been either dazzled by the boldness of the great humanist or distressed by the limitations of his spiritual horizons. But perhaps we are not often enough inclined to be amused, unprepared as we are to grant readily that the intent of Erasmus, here as elsewhere, was to delineate a vision essentially dependent on a lusory apprehension of reality. The notorious exclamation just quoted occurs in a particular colloquy, The Godly Feast, which Erasmus intentionally made to resound with echoes of Plato's Symposium. In deploying a dramatic form reminiscent of the greatest Platonic dialogue, Erasmus had clearly hoped to elicit responses within the framework provided. In the event, however, he was disappointed repeatedly, for readers responded in the light of personal visions not always cognizant either of Platonism or of its preferred means

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