The paradox

Michael W. Price

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The paradox

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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The essence of this article is the minor genre of paradox. Though today considered obscure, a minor genre, the paradox has flourished from time to time since the classical period, enjoying significant popularity in England at the turn of the seventeenth century. An important problem for criticism is why the paradox emerged and flourished in England at this particular time. It had developed in two related traditions: the mock encomium and the argument against received opinion. In the former, the paradox was like a ‘roast’ — ironic praise, replete with burlesqued conventions of formal encomium, for someone or something unworthy of praise. In the sixteenth century the outstanding example of the mock encomium was Desiderius Erasmus' famous Moriae Encomium, a declamation in praise of folly that raised this tradition of the genre to unparalleled force and complexity. The paradox as argument against received opinion, however, disputed common sense concerning ethical and other doctrines.

Keywords: genre; paradox; ironic praise; Desiderius Erasmus; Moriae Encomium; classical period

Article.  1856 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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