Avatars of Latin Schooling: Recycling Memories of Latin Classes in Western Poetry: Five Paradigmatic Cases

  • Anders Cullhed (Stockholm University)


This paper tries to elucidate the significance of Latin schooling for the production of poetry by lining up five typical cases of recycling Roman texts, from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The French poet Baudri de Bourgueil (ca 1050–1130) rewrote Ovid’s Heroides 16–17 within a cultural context, characteristic of the incipient “Ovidian age,” aetas ovidiana, based on classroom practices such as paraphrase, accessus and glosses, presupposing a sense of historical continuity – or translatio studii et imperii – from Antiquity down to the twelfth century. In his great work, The Comedy, the Florentine Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) reused Ovid in a quite different way, representative of the allegorizing tendencies noticeable in Italy and France towards the end of the Ovidian age. The Early Modern motto ad fontes, on the other hand, presupposed a breach between ancient and present times, none the less possible (and surely commendable) to bridge by means of imitation within the framework of studia humanitatis and a new philological culture, made possible by the printing press. This cultural paradigm shift is illustrated by a look at a famous sonnet by the Spanish Golden Age poet Francisco de Quevedo (1580–1645). Finally, our modern and postmodern era, characterized by an ambivalent attitude to the classical heritage, is represented by the Anglo-American poet T.S. Eliot (1888–1965) and his Swedish successor Hjalmar Gullberg (1898–1961), both of whom remembered their Latin classes in their mature poetry, marked by irony, distance and, probably, nostalgia.

Keywords: intertextuality, poetry, Latin schooling, literary reuse

How to Cite:

Cullhed, A., (2019) “Avatars of Latin Schooling: Recycling Memories of Latin Classes in Western Poetry: Five Paradigmatic Cases”, Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literatures 1, 17-33. doi:

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Published on
12 Jun 2019
Peer Reviewed