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The Mimesis of Marriage: Dialogue and Intimacy in Erasmus's Matrimonial Writings*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Reinier Leushuis*
Florida State University


Erasmus's writings on marriage, such as the Praise of Marriage, the Institution of Christian Marriage, and several of the Colloquies, have long been studied from a social-intellectual perspective that focuses on their role within theobgical debates of the time. This article proposes a different approach by stressing the literary and rhetorical aspects by which these texts seek to influence a reader in his or her "matrimonial praxis." Through the combination of an effective rhetoric of intimacy with the characteristics of literary dialogue, Erasmus creates a mimetic discourse aimed at conveying models of conjugal life to be imitated by future readers.

Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2004

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Earlier versions of this text were read at the Renaissance and Early Modem Colloquium at Princeton University (Spring 1998) and at die annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Scottsdale, Arizona, 11-13 April 2002. I would like to thank Professors Jean-Claude Carron at UCLA and Eva Kushner at the University of Toronto (Victoria College) as well as the two anonymous readers for their meticulous readings and useful comments on my essay. Parts of my discussions of the colloquies and the Encomium in this article have been reworked from material published previously in French in my book Le Mariage et l'«amitié courtoise» dans le dialogue et le récit bref de la Renaissance (Florence 2003). Throughout the article the abbreviation ASD refers to the Opera Omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami (Erasmus, 1969—); CWE to the Collected Works of Erasmus (Erasmus, 1974—); and LB to the Opera Omnia (Erasmus, 1703-06).


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