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Title: Review of Halkin, Léon-E., 'Erasmus: a critical biography', trans. John Tonkin, Oxford and Cambridge Mass., Blackwell, 1994: rpt; paper; pp. xv, 360; R.R.P. AUS $45.00 [distributed in Australia by Allen and Unwin].
Contributor(s): Ryan, John S (author)
Publication Date: 1996
DOI: 10.1353/pgn.1996.0004
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Abstract: This present edition is the first paperback version of John Tonkin's excellent translation of Halkin's 'Érasme parmi nous' (1987). One must stress that the text is lively and 'brings Erasmus among us again', as 'The Times' averred, and shows us how its subject must have seemed to kindred spirits of his own day. Perhaps unfortunately, the English title does not reflect sufficiently on the way in which the original title and text focussed on the relevance of its subject's life and work to wide audiences today. As Halkin stresses in this most mature work, Erasmus offered his contemporaries the chance for 'inward change', a return to a religion of love and demand for total committal of self, holding nothing back. Such a sophisticated treatment moves us far beyond such descriptions of him as 'finicky, peevish, spiteful, in his early years sycophantic to a nauseating degree', as one 1960s critic held. For, of course, 'Erasmus always returned to essentials, to inward religion, and to the Gospel'. This presentation of 'the Erasmian message ... of critical Christianity' is the Halkin achievement, as he shows how Erasmus combined 'an unceasing appeal to personal prayer' with merciless satire of dubious pilgrimages, relics, and imprudent vows. His very lively 'extentialist' view of religion clearly confused and frightened many of his contemporaries, whereas it now speaks most immediately to us; for example, as in his concepts of the emancipation of women, of the marriage state for ill-suited clerics, of possible divorce, and of various other practical reforms, alongside his more mystical philosophy of Christ.
Publication Type: Review
Source of Publication: Parergon, 13(2), p. 305-306
Publisher: Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 0313-6221
Field of Research (FOR): 220209 History of Ideas
220401 Christian Studies (incl Biblical Studies and Church History)
210307 European History (excl British, Classical Greek and Roman)
HERDC Category Description: D3 Review of Single Work
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