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Epigrams and Sociability in the Eighteenth Century: The Manuscript Evidence

Learned extemporal poetry, improvised by poets without premeditation and for the purpose of social entertainment, has a long and respectable tradition. One of its more interesting international chapters is the extemporal poetry composed in Latin by the Slavic poets who spent their lives in eighteenth-century Italy, at a time when Latin was irreversibly losing its creative significance in the European Republic of Letters. The focus of this presentation will be the work of three Ragusan epigrammatists who had successful careers in eighteenth-century Italy, where they achieved something of a celebrity status. These epigrammatists were Ruđer Bošković (1711-1787), famous for his work as a physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, Rajmund Kunić (1719-1794), best known for his celebrated translation of Homer into Latin, and Marko Faustin Galjuf (1765-1834), author of one of the last and most eloquent pleas for the beauty of the Latin language as a vehicle for a modern European literature. Latin extemporal poetry demands not only talent and practice, but also a perfect mastery of both the poetic form and the literary tradition. At the same time, it is supposed to appeal to a live audience and serve as a source of genuine amusement. It is, clearly, an impossible genre. Being ephemeral by nature and oral in origin, how have extemporal poems reached us and how do they function deprived of their original context? The presentation will explore various kinds of manuscript and print records that ensured the life of Latin extemporal poetry after its initial performance, complicated by the fact that its authors were Ragusans living abroad.
Irena Bratičević is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. She recently published a monograph titled Via virtutis: The Epigrammatic Oeuvre of Rajmund Kunić (2015), followed by an edition of Rajmund Kunić’s epigrams (2016). Her research interests include Croatian Neo-Latin literature, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ragusan literature, and early modern manuscript culture. She is currently a collaborator on the Stanford project Manuscript Networks of the Ragusan Republic (1358-1808), supported by the Denning Fund for Humanities and Technologies and directed by Ivan Lupić.



Thursday, February 9, 2017. 12:00 PM


Encina Hall West, Room 219


Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, Stanford Text Technologies, Department of Classics, and Manuscripts Networks of the Ragusan Republic Project




Free and open to the public.
RSVP requested.