Synopses & Reviews
and#147;Christian laughter is a maze: you could easily get snarled up within it.and#8221; So says Michael A. Screech in his note to readers preceding this collection of fifty-three elegant and pithy essays. As Screech reveals, the question of whether laughter is acceptable to the god of the Old and New Testaments is a dangerous one.
But we are fortunate in our guide: drawing on his immense knowledge of the classics and of humanists like Erasmus and Rabelaisand#151;who used Plato and Aristotle to interpret the Gospelsand#151;and incorporating the thoughts of Aesop, Calvin, Lucian of Samosata, Luther, Socrates, and others, Screech shows that Renaissance thinkers revived ancient ideas about what inspires laughter and whether it could ever truly be innocent. As Screech argues, in the minds of Renaissance scholars, laughter was to be taken very seriously. Indeed, in an era obsessed with heresy and reform, this most human of abilities was no laughing matter.
and#8220;Lavishly erudite, digressive. . . . Screech commands the intellectual and literary history of the sixteenth century. . . . The finished book is a provocative, wide-ranging work of cultural history.and#8221;
andldquo;Laughter can be innocent. . . . But suppose there is an exultation over the foe, can this be Christian? Psalm II suggests it can. For after describing the rage of the heathen and their plots against Godandrsquo;s anointed, it says: andlsquo;He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: The Lord shall have them in derision.andrsquo; What gives Laughter at the Foot of the Cross its sinew and muscle is the way Screech takes this mocking triumph with the utmost seriousness. . . . Apart from numerous fresh insights along the way and the scholarly erudition, the great importance of this book is a paradoxical one. It is a book about laughter but it forces us to face the reality of evil.andrdquo;
and#8220;A splendid and exciting book, and a learned one. It takes the maxim that man is a laughing animal and enlarges it to encompass the concept that Christianity is a religion centred on laughter. . . . Laughter at the Foot of the Cross is a book that is historical in its thrust, philological at every step in its argument, and vigorously celebratory of the achievement of Erasmus and Rabelais both for their own times and for our own.and#8221;
A masterly new translation of Rabelaiss robust scatalogical comedy
Parodying everyone from classic authors to his own contemporaries, the dazzling and exuberant stories of Rabelais expose human follies with mischievous and often obscene humor. Gargantua depicts a young giant who becomes a cultured Christian knight. Pantagruel portrays Gargantuas bookish son who becomes a Renaissance Socrates, divinely guided by wisdom and by his idiotic, self-loving companion, Panurge.
A classic of Italian literature, this epic and unforgettable novel recounts one mans long and turbulent life in revolutionary Italy
At the age of eighty-three and nearing death, Carlo Altoviti has decided to write down the confessions of his long life. Throughout, Carlo has lived for his two great passions: his dream of a unified, free Italy and his undying love for the magnificent but inconstant Pisana. Peopled by a host of unforgettable characters, this epic historical novel intertwines the remarkable story of one mans life and the history of Italys unification.
About the Author
was born at the end of the fifteenth century. A Franciscan monk turned Benedictine, he abandoned the cloister in 1530 and began to study medicine at Montpellier. Two years later he wrote his first work, Pantagruel
, which revealed his genius as a storyteller, satirist, propagandist and creator of comic situations and characters. In 1534 he published Gargantua
, a companion to Pantagruel
, which contains some of his best work. It mocks old-fashioned theological education, and opposes the monastic ideal, contrasting it with a free society of noble Evangelicals. Following an outburst of repression in late 1534, Rabelais abandoned his post of doctor at the Hotel-Dieu at Lyons and despite Royal support his book Tiers Livre
was condemned. His last work, and his boldest, Quart Livre
was published in 1551 and he died two years later. For the last years of his life Rabelais was persecuted by both religious and civil authorities for his publications. His genius however was recognized in his own day and his influence was great.
Dr. M. A. Screech is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of University College London; he long served on the committee of the Warburg Institute as Fielden Professor of French Language and Literature in London, until his election to All Souls in 1984. He is a Renaissance scholar of international renown. His books include Montaigne and Melancholy, as well as Rabelais and (on Erasmus) Ecstasy and the Praise of Folly; all are acknowledged to be classic studies in their fields.