The Silenus in Erasmus and Rabelais
This chapter focuses on the sixteenth-century reception of Alcibiades’s seduction speech in the Symposium. Erasmus is aware of the issue of homoerotics, particularly in The Handbook of the Christian Soldier and in the Adages, as he evokes homoeroticism to discount it. Erasmus’s attempts to establish hermeneutic closure in his version of the Silenic image, and expunge Socratic eros. His religious approach contrasts sharply with François Rabelais’s famous Silenus Box in the prologue to Gargantua, for which Erasmus’s adage is assumed to have served as textual model. Rabelais mocks Erasmus’s straightened-out version of the image through comic means, suggesting that the reading out of Socratic sexuality should itself be mocked as an anti-historical hermeneutic approach. In this sense, the French writer directly distinguishes himself from other Renaissance translations of Plato, including Ficino whom he knew directly, and may be commenting on through the medium of fiction.
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