French and Italian | Studies in 16th Century French Literature
F620 | 25391 | Macphail, Eric


Topic: Latin in the Renaissance.  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. Joint-offered with REN R502.