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Encyclopedic Erasmus

Encyclopedic Erasmus
91 Charles Street W., Chapel, Old Victoria College
Time: Feb 11th, 4:00 pm End: Feb 11th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: Religion, Study of (FAS), Philosophy (UTSC), Philosophy (UTM), Philosophy (FAS), Medieval Studies (FAS), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Classics (FAS), Book History/Print Culture, 1800-1900, 1500-1800
CRRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar lecture by Brian Cummings, University of York

The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies is pleased to present the Distinguished Visiting Scholar for 2014

Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor of English, The University of York (UK)

Encyclopedic Erasmus

What is the concept of the ‘Encyclopaedia’ before Diderot? While the first book with the title Encyclopaedia was printed in 1517, the term was familiar from rhetoric as an ideal of the universe of learning: the total sum of common knowledge in its potentiality, rather than a practical compendium. Erasmus both extols the principle and subjects it to irony and even to a premonition of inevitable failure. Can universal knowledge ever be more than an illusion, or an expression of personal hubris? De copia was a milestone in establishing Erasmus as a humanist scholar after its first publication in Paris in 1512. In turn, the book was a major influence on theories of rhetoric, and of writing in general, throughout the sixteenth century. Copiousness is the key to writing, or to language, or even to an idea of knowledge. In this lecture, I will analyse the theory of copiousness in Erasmus, and examine its practical application in the Adagia – another sixteenth-century bestseller – which renders copiousness forth as a physical entity, an anthology of all ancient learning, and the summation of bonae litterae. However, this most impersonal of books is a contingent store of a single human memory, autobiographical, improvisatory, even solipsistic. In the Catalogus omnium Erasmi lucubrationum, Erasmus made the completion of the book a metonym of his own death, as well as a trope of his immortality. In the process, he provides a model for the problem of how to render the encyclopaedia in literary form.

Brian Cummings (Anniversary Professor, University of York, UK, 2012-present) has taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Sussex, and is co-founder of the Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Sussex. Cummings’ research examines Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, the history of religion, the history of the book, modern poetry, and the philosophy of literature. His recent publications include Mortal Thoughts: Religion, Secularity, and Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013), an edition of The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 (OUP 2011), and The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace (OUP 2002 & 2007).

Professor Cummings will also present a second lecture on Wednesday 12 February, titled "Grammar and Grace Revisited" in the Goldring Student Centre, 150 Charles Street West, room 206 (Regent's Room).

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at (416) 585-4484 or see http://crrs.ca

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