Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Katherine Eggert

Second Advisor

David Glimp

Third Advisor

Ramesh Mallipeddi


This project begins by contextually and historically investigating Desiderius Erasmus’s and Thomas More’s relations to the institutionalized thinking they are bound by, but also observes the highly critical positions they stake through this contextual analysis and especially in their satires: The Praise of Folly and Utopia. I will establish that Erasmus and More are conscious of the highly constructed psychological implications of hierarchical exhibitions of wealth and the corrupt relation to the material world that hierarchical figures maintain. This observation is demonstrated in both of their satires. I argue that the state, in Utopia, transgresses traditional notions of materiality by re-appropriating the value of certain material items—for instance, by forcing prisoners, slaves, and children to wear traditionally coveted items like gold chains, diamonds, and pearls. Not only does the state enforce public displays of punishment for criminal subjects, but by making enfranchised people wear these items during public punishment they construct a narrative that sharply contrasts happiness and suffering. Similarly, in The Praise of Folly, the personified Folly asks her audience to question the reality of their own state of mind, despite the ways in which regulatory figures have influenced them to think about their own wellbeing and happiness. These narratives force regular citizens to consider their own lack of suffering, but it is, in fact, through these material signifiers and formulated ideologies that subjects are able to conceive of their own happiness.