The anonymous text entitled La Pazzia (Craziness) is an important example of the reception of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly in sixteenth century Italian culture. Amongst the Italian Renaissance texts inspired by the Praise of Folly, La Pazzia is the one that follows the structure and content of Erasmus’ work more closely. The (partial) parallelism between the two texts makes it easier to detect how the Praise of Folly was adapted and transformed. La Pazzia’s constant interjection of examples taken from its time and culture to illustrate ideas present in its source effectively shows the process of acculturation of the Praise of Folly into the Italian context. The lack of any analyses of the church’s power-structure and the tenets of an authentic Christian life in La Pazzia reveals that this text did not simply receive the Praise of Folly selectively; it transformed its main source dramatically by turning it into a completely secular work. La Pazzia also provides a captivating illustration of how the Praise of Folly could be modified to appeal to a very different audience. The Praise of Folly is a very learned work primarily directed at humanists; La Pazzia is a text designed to reach a broad and moderately educated audience. The investigation of the specific ways in which a text written for the cultural elite was altered in order to appeal to less sophisticated readers shows that, through this process, La Pazzia ended up bringing to light potentialities that were not fully expressed in its source.
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