Dynamics of Neo-Latin and the Vernacular: Language and Poetics, Translation and Transfer

Seventeenth-Century News, Spring-Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Dynamics of Neo-Latin and the Vernacular: Language and Poetics, Translation and Transfer


* Dynamics of Neo-Latin and the Vernacular: Language and Poetics, Translation and Transfer. Edited by Tom Deneire. Medieval and Renaissance Authors and Texts, 11. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014. X + 327 pp. $149. One of the great ironies of cultural history is that the elevation of Latin to the undisputed lingua franca in Renaissance Europe took place at the same time that all of Europe experienced an increasing appreciation for the vernacular languages. This phenomenon has generally been interpreted within a binary scheme, with the elitist Neo-Latin culture on the one hand set in opposition to a popular or bourgeois culture on the other. A group of Dutch scholars, however, has spent the last decade exploring this issue as a more complex and dynamic matter of cultural poetics, to use Stephen Greenblatt's terminology. Beginning in 2004 Jan Bloemendal received a large grant from the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NW) to study the bilingual theater culture of the Netherlands during the Renaissance, which was followed by a second grant in 2009 that studied how several Dutch poets who wrote in both Latin and the vernacular were received in Germany. The project was expanded in its later stages to include the dynamics of Neo-Latin and the vernacular more generally, which led to the book under review.

The volume opens with a methodological intervention by Jan Bloemendal that essentially constitutes a response to ten questions that had originally been posed by Nikolaus Thurn in Neulatein und Volkssprachen (Munich, 2012). This is followed by the first of two sections, entitled "Language and Poetics," that explores the question of cultural exchange on a micro-level. The volume editor begins the section with a study of Dutch occasional poetry from the years 1635 to 1640 that shows how dangerous it is to try to construct larger generalizations from the interaction between Neo-Latin and the vernacular poetic repertoires in this specific area. Using the eleven volumes of Pieter Bor's History of the Dutch Revolt and the War against Spain (1595--1634), Harm-Jan van Dam explores the co-existence of both Latin and vernacular liminal poems in an important Dutch book of the Renaissance. Johanna Svennson in turn studies the division of labor between Latin and Danish in the speech community formed by the clergy in the province of Scania in the late seventeenth century. Ummu Yuksel's paper discusses two poems written by Martin Opitz in praise of Daniel Heinsius, which allows us to see how the figure of Heinsius can serve as both a representative of Latin learning and a symbol of Dutch literary and political nationalism. Eva van Hooijdonk extends this approach to the collection of Latin epigrams on Prince Maurice of Nassau that Hugo Grotius composed around 1600 to accompany a series of engravings depicting various Dutch successes in the revolt against the Spanish. …

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