Comparative Literature | Latin in the Renaissance
C525 | 27483 | Prof. Eric MacPhail


CMLT-C 525 (27483) Studies in 16th Century French Literature: Latin
in the Renaissance ,  E. MacPhail ,  M 3:35-5:30
-meets w/  FRIT-F 620 and  REN-R 502
This course will examine some of the controversies surrounding the
Latin language during the European Renaissance. We will begin by
studying the function of linguistic satire in Ulrich von Hutten’s
Epistolae virorum obscurorum and in the contemporary Epistola in sex
linguis as well as in some vernacular examples from Rabelais’ novels
and from Francesco Belo’s comedy Il pedante. In examining these
texts we will try to understand not only their polemical context but
also their literary and esthetic impulses. Next we will review the
historical debate on the relationship between Latin and the
vernacular in the competing theses of Biondo Flavio and Leonardo
Bruni. Then we will examine the confrontation between humanist and
scholastic Latin in the epistolary exchange between Giovanni Pico
della Mirandola and Ermolao Barbaro as well as within Pico’s own
extensive oeuvre, which exemplifies the entire range of Latin styles
practiced in the Renaissance. We will also study the controversy
over Ciceronianism and its extension into vernacular questions of
literary and linguistic usage. We will also look at some case
studies of translation from Greek into Latin, including competing
humanist and scholastic versions of Aristotle, and we will sample
the polemics provoked by Erasmus’ retranslation of the New
Testament. All of these controversies help to elucidate important
social, religious, and national tensions present in sixteenth-
century Europe even as they highlight the theoretical issues raised
by the representation of language in literary texts. All students
are expected to be able to read brief passages of Latin prose in
class and longer passages for homework. As a final project, each
student will select a Latin text that is important for his or her
research and do a classroom presentation on the literary qualities
and genealogy of the text. In this way we can review some key
aspects of Renaissance culture while advancing our own individual
research into Latin texts from a wide variety of disciplines.