In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Latin gradually lost its dominant position as a literary language in Europe. The normativity of the Classics was increasingly questioned in the literary field, and cultural processes such as the boom of translation and the rise of journals opened up literature to a broader public. Nonetheless, key players in intellectual Europe continued to produce collected epigrams in Latin. Despite its omnipresence, the epigrammatic genre is almost exclusively studied in vernacular languages and has received next to no attention in Neo-Latin studies after the Renaissance.
The present project hypothesizes that the Latin epigram contributed significantly to the cultivation of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ‘Republic of Letters’, a self-aware and transnational network of intellectuals. On the one hand, the epigram was a tool for self-fashioning. It helped writers to consciously build their image within a particular socio-historical context. On the other hand, the genre attests to the increasingly multilingual status of the Republic of Letters. Features of the Latin epigram were negotiated in dialogue with contemporary, vernacular traditions of epigrams and other forms of short poetry. By turning to a body of texts that is often overlooked, the project aims to enhance our understanding of the transnational dynamics fundamentally shaping a period in European literary history marked by crucial changes.