Jesting with Giants
Cover of Volume 44 (1)
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How to Cite

Jesting with Giants: Playing the Fool in Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel. (2020). The Political Science Reviewer, 44(1), 95-120.


In Playing the Fool, Ralph Lerner recovers a tradition of using humor to reflect on political life, either to subvert existing norms or to discuss their contradictions discretely. This article argues that François Rabelais belongs in the tradition of philosophers who played the fool. Rabelais's sharp satirical attacks on monasticism and scholasticism show how comedy can be used to effect political change. His farcical presentations of kingship point in a different direction, revealing how comedy can be used to articulate discrete reservations about existing institutions without aiming at their abolition. Studying the way Rabelais jests with the giant protagonists of his novels allows us to see the political significance of his laughter while suggesting the limitations of the comic perspective.

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