in Playing the Fool

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226473154
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226473178 | DOI:

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Authors who wish to rouse certain of their readers while leaving the others to slumber on have a wide range of devices at their disposal, from irony and feigned madness to shocking frankness, silly-sounding earnestness, and even the sheer disarray of presentation. This book examines the art by which some prominent authors of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries used their written words to discriminate among potential readers and thus to promote their arguably covert cause. Writers of studied deception should make simple-minded literalists feel bamboozled and vexed, for it is not such folk that wise fools would address. Clement of Alexandria, Moses Maimonides, and Denis Diderot each relied on the dispersal of his presentation to further his educative goals while avoiding harmful consequences for himself and others. In his Stromata or Miscellanies, Clement resorted to camouflage and concealment. The elitist premise that underlies Clement's esotericism is also evident in Maimonides' writings. Diderot, for his part, employed cross-references (renvois), which he considered “the most important aspect of encyclopedic ordering.”

Keywords: frankness; irony; deception; Clement of Alexandria; Moses Maimonides; Denis Diderot; camouflage; concealment; cross-references; esotericism

Chapter.  8349 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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