Strand Definitions: Latin Writing

During the Middle Ages the presence of a Latin-writing intelligentsia was a common feature in much of Europe, so much so in fact that it is customary to speak of a major European cultural area as the 'Latin west'. Within this area, Latin was or came in time to be the primary language of learning, liturgy, law, and record; it was also a major language of imaginative literature and a lingua franca permitting communication across national and linguistic boundaries. People wrote in it with varying degrees of skill and effectiveness on virtually all topics from the trivial to the highly serious and from the mundane to the sublime. The study of the ways in which writers expressed themselves in this important but usually acquired tongue (and even in the very early Middle Ages when Latin was still a native language in parts of Europe and North Africa, its literary forms had to be learned and mastered) is the chief focus of the Latin Writing strand.

This strand welcomes scholarly contributions on philological, linguistic or literary aspects of Latin-language texts created during the period c.300 - c.1500. Also covered are the medieval study and teaching of Latin and of Latin-based rhetoric and poetics; socio-linguistic aspects of the use of Latin during this period; significant influence or reception of Latin-language texts in writings in other languages; post-medieval attitudes to or appropriations of medieval Latin writing; and the modern study and teaching of medieval Latin language and literature.

There is no restriction by critical approach or by genre: work on rhetorical, compositional, stylistic, or contextual features of 'popular' or utilitarian writing (e.g., charms, prophecies, travel literature, chronicles, learned commentary, handbooks and encyclopedias) is every bit as welcome as is that on forms traditionally considered 'literary'. Successful sessions have dealt with Latin writings of particular times or places, with the work of individual writers, with writing on particular themes, and with widely practiced genres (e.g., letters and letter collections). Within a session, a mix of disciplinary viewpoints is often advantageous, and we welcome papers with clearly enunciated critical methodologies. Submissions on newly emerging areas of interest and re-assessments of the state of knowledge in long-standing ones are encouraged.

What differentiates this strand from others is its emphasis on the linguistic vehicle itself: how thoughts were understood and expressed in Latin, how that language was regarded by its writers and their audiences, and how knowledge of this tongue was transmitted to others.