Former Research Lines 2011-2017


Programme Line: Politics – Key concept: Identities 

(Gábor Almási, Oren Margolis, Clementina Marsico, Farkas Kiss, Florian Schaffenrath, Lav Šubarić, Isabella Walser-Bürgler)

With the rise of nations, nation states, and national languages in the early modern period, Latin, the traditional international language of Europe, found itself caught up in complex negotiations of political identity. Both in the search for a common European identity and the development of modern national identities, Latin was not only a significant medium of discussion but also a topic of considerable emotional weight in its own right. This programme line aims to unravel the role of Latin in this process on a number of levels.

In the first phase of the LBI (2011–14) our research has been dedicated to the role of Latin in reflecting national and supranational identities in the Habsburg Empire. Given the precarious cohesion of this multinational Empire, Latin was from the 16th to the 19th centuries not only a highly useful lingua franca, but also a privileged means of expressing imperial identity on the one hand, and national (and partly also regional) identities on the other. We analysed this role of Latin in in two particularly rewarding yet hitherto largely neglected groups of texts, one from the belles-lettres, another mainly from administration, political theory and journalism.

Firstly, we examined the construction of political identities in Latin novels and epics, the classic representatives of narrative literature. In the Habsburg Empire both genres also assumed a specific political significance. We have traced how they expressed centripetal tendencies speaking out for unity and Austrian predominance on the one hand, and centrifugal tendencies shaping regional or national identities on the other hand.

Secondly, we investigated the changing attitudes towards Latin from the late 18th to the mid 19th century. In the eastern part of the Empire, the multinational Kingdom of Hungary, Latin was in the early modern period not only the official language of education, administration and the judiciary, but also the medium of communication between different linguistic communities and even, to a degree, of everyday communication among the elite. While in the late 18th century Latin was still seen as a cornerstone of national identity, this role radically changed in the following decades: with the re-definition of national identity as based on ethnolinguistic principles, Latin seemed more and more an obstacle to the progress of nations and their innate genius.

In the second phase (2015–17), we have been studying the construction of political identities no longer primarily in the Habsburg Empire, but in the wider European context. We did so on three different levels.

Firstly, in a direct and general way, we confronted the discourse of an early modern supranational European identity by tracing the concept of Europe as a (geographical, political, legal, cultural, religious, intellectual, etc.) unity in a large variety of Neo-Latin texts ranging from fictional literature (e.g. novels, epic poems, epigrams), political and legal literature in the narrower sense (e.g. peace treaties, diplomats’ reports, political theories, mirrors for princes) to geographical and ‘scientific’ literature (e.g. cosmologies, travelogues, descriptions of nations, didactic poems, literary histories), and pragmatic literature (e.g. leaflets, journals and newspapers, speeches, letters). Except for a few prominent authors such as Enea Silvio Piccolomini or Juan Luis Vives, Neo-Latin literature has never been seriously and systematically mined for manifestations of the term and idea of ‘Europe’. We have thus systematically collected and selected sources from the various genres mentioned which represent fundamental intellectual and historical trends in early modern Europe. Geographical treatises, for instance, play an important role in recreating the ancient geographical concept of Europe, while various descriptiones and maps constitute an important step in its visualization together with the popular allegories of continents. In Latin political arguments, the pan-European perspective is a recurrent issue in the question of universal monarchy that was often evoked in the French and Habsburg power struggle for predominance in Christian Europe. Another well-known force in the process of the political and ideological perception of Europe was the definition and demarcation of the ‘Other’. Various genres serve as a means to transport ‘European ideology’ against the most important ‘Other’ in early modern Europe, the Ottomans: speeches, theological treatises, historiographical writings, or epics. The legal discourse theorizes pan-European jurisdictions on the basis of common European institutions and administrations. The colonization of the New World, Asia, and of the Americas created a multitude of literary texts (e.g. epics, novels, dramas) dealing with European cultural supremacy, in which ‘Europe’ was represented as a synonym of Catholicism, power, and peace. Finally, genres such as literary histories give an impression of the intellectual map of Europe, just as the very personal statements of intellectuals in speeches and correspondences do. From a survey of the texts and issues in question, we tried to gain new and more nuanced insights into what ‘Europe’ meant to contemporaries in the Early Modern Period, as well as to enhance the corpus of Neo-Latin texts on the discourse of Europe.

Secondly, we took a closer look at the connections between language and political identity by investigating the European-wide (in some cases even world-wide) emergence of grammars of national languages from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Many of the national grammars in question have been actually written in Latin - and virtually all of them have been modelled not only after Latin grammars in general, but even after the Latin grammar in particular. Hence, we set out to study the individual and common strategies with which the authors used Latin and its grammar to prove the literary dignity of their respective vernacular language (e.g. by applying Latin structures on the vernaculars) in a first step. In a second, we dealt with more ideological questions such as in which way and to what degree Latin also provided political authority beyond mere linguistic choices. Paratexts like prefaces (in which e.g. national pride is expressed) did especially prove helpful during the investigation.

Finally, we took the the symbolic value of Latin in education and identity-constructions in eastern Europe from the 18th to the early 20th century into consideration. While the vernacular languages had gradually substituted Latin as the language of education, it still remained an essential element of school curricula until the 21st century and has retained an important place in the value systems and the self-image of several European nations. For Western Europe this process is well researched. However, the same process in Central and Eastern Europe has never been studied in detail. The position of Latin as both a medium and content of education was far more entrenched and secure at the beginning of the period in question in the highly Latinized societies of Central and Eastern Europe than in the West. Due to the rationalist positions of the Enlightenment combined with the birth of national ideologies in the late 18th century, the role of Latin in education started to change slowly, as the ethnolinguistic approach to culture aimed to put the vernacular ‘national’ language in the centre of education as a means of national self-preservation. In the political conflicts of the 19th and the early 20th centuries, ‘national education’ became a problem of even greater urgency than in the West. Consequently the attitudes towards Latin became much more radical and the educators debated its position in education with far greater vehemence. Under these new circumstances the re-integration of Latin in the system of values was correspondingly more complicated and required additional ideological justification.



Programme Line: Religion – Key concept: Religious PR
(Florian Schaffenrath, Valerio Sanzotta)

Although Latin remains the official language of the Catholic church today, in the Early Modern Period it had an even greater and more varied importance for religious experience and practice, especially within Christianity. Latin’s reach extended from theology and liturgy to Christian education and the types of personal devotion that found expression, for instance, in calendars of saints and hymn books. In terms of communication, Latin could be used on a more theoretical and intellectual (as e.g. in theological treatises) or on a more emotional and entertaining level (as e.g. in theatre or novels). The former use is aimed at a small group of specialists; the latter at a potentially large audience. The research of the LBI in the programme line Religion has particularly focused on that latter use of Latin as a medium of religious ‘public relations’ ante litteram. Christian institutions and individuals were on the forefront of developing such PR in Latin. They combined a general inclination towards Latin (as time-honoured language of Christianity) with an intended emotional impact to further edification, exhortation, reformation, counter-reformation and similar causes. Religious literature, therefore, turned out to be a very suitable field to study the phenomenon of Latin PR in the early modern period. An emphasis lay on original and innovative genres/media/bodies of texts/individual works which either influenced actual debates or enriched the range of literary and cultural expression (e.g. by re-interpreting traditional genres, by creating new ones, or by providing models for vernacular literature).

In the first phase of the LBI (2011–14) our research has been dedicated mostly to Jesuit theatre and other forms of Catholic school drama, one of the most successful and wide-reaching forms of religious PR in the early modern period. While it is comparatively well studied for the 16th and 17th centuries, however, its late manifestations in the 18th century are barely known, let alone properly understood. Across several projects, we analysed the texts of Jesuit dramas from the beginning of the 18th century (N. Tjoelker) and edited some examples of early-18th-century texts (S. Wirthensohn, V. Sanzotta) from different cultural backgrounds (south German Jesuit circles, the Arcadia in Rome).

Now, in the second phase (2015–17), we are widening our scope and deal with two strongly interrelated topics. The first project picks up on our research on Jesuit drama, but looks at an emphatically religious form of drama left out of account before: the so-called meditationes (or considerationes, 'Fastenmeditationen'). These plays were only performed in sacred places (mostly Jesuit churches) on Sundays in Lent within the framework of the Societies of Our Lady ('Marianische Kongregation'). It was the aim of these plays to excite special emotions (affectus) in the audience concerning regret and penitence. The second project aims at investigating the influence of the Jesuit order in the context of literary production of the Italian academies of the 18th century, especially regarding the connections of the Arcadian poetry with the devotional system and the religious sensitivity of the Jesuits. Although it cannot certainly be asserted that the Arcadia as a whole was dominated by the Jesuits, it can be observed, nonetheless, how in the first half of the 18th century the Society of Jesus successfully attempted to orient the Arcadian reform and academic activities towards their theological, pedagogical, political and and moral demands.

In addition, the programme line Religion pursues also digital initiatives. On the one hand, the source material for all our research should be digitized and made available online. On the other hand (and more ambitiously), we aim to develop a comprehensive database of European Jesuit drama and an associated platform providing digitizations of all available Jesuit periochae (i.e. printed programmes to Jesuit plays – our single most important source for the history of Jesuit drama).



Programme Line: History of Mentalities – Key concept: Perception of Nature
(William Barton, Martin Korenjak, Johanna Luggin, Anna Novokhatko)

Mentalities can be defined as basic attitudes towards fundamental aspects of human existence such as time, the body or death. These attitudes are usually experienced as the natural and even the only possible way of seeing things by the people who hold them. In reality, however, they are highly culturally determined and can change radically over time. 

The Early Modern age was, indeed, an age of such dramatic mentality changes: The European mind-set was, broadly speaking, transformed from medieval to modern. One important strand within this complex process concerned the idea of nature: While in earlier times nature tended to be seen as something potentially dangerous and hostile, to be either domesticated or avoided, modernity experiences it as a necessary complement to human culture and as a source of joy and satisfaction. Neo-Latin literature played an essential role in the transition between these mentalities. This role is, however, largely neglected in previous research on the topic, which results in a distorted picture of the whole process; among other things, changes whose roots actually lie in the time around 1500 are often post-dated to the 18th century.

Within the topic just sketched, the mentalities line undertakes two projects, to be carried out in the years 2011–2014 and 2015–2017 respectively: The first one, already well underway, is entitled “The Discovery of Mountains”, while the second is concerned with “The Invention of Landscape”.

The history of mountain perception is usually constructed as a fairly linear evolution from “mountain gloom” to “mountain glory” – to cite a classic in the field – and the turning point is usually positioned in the 18th century. Our focus on Neo-Latin, instead of vernacular, texts not only allowed us to push this date back by some 250 years, but also showed that the whole process is in fact less linear and much more complex than has been suspected until then. The sources of a new interest in, and finally a new appreciation of mountains include a diverse range of ideas, discourses and practices: from ethnological theory to royal self-representation, from patriotism to theology (and even demonology), from dietetics to the rise of the Sublime, from the flowering of the sciences such as botanics, geology, vulcanology and glaciology to the beginnings of tourism. In addition, these strands also transect and interact in many different ways, resulting in an even more variegated picture. Our project gave special prominence to the issues of aesthetics and tourism, which were treated in book-length studies by William Barton and Johanna Luggin respectively. A broad range of other aspects has been covered in talks and articles.

Now, from 2015–2017, we are widening our focus from one specific landscape, mountains, to landscape in general. Taking Neo-Latin sources into account, the invention of landscape can be predated in a similar way to the discovery of mountains. Four aspects receive special attention: the Latin prehistory of the concept of landscape, the invention of ‘national landscapes’ (that is, landscapes seen as typical for certain political entities), early forms of landscape tourism and landscape as an object of contemplation.

For various small projects of the Mentalities line, see


Neo-Latin and Science

(LBI: William Barton, Martin Korenjak, Johanna Luggin /
University of Innsbruck: Akokopyan Ovanes, Dominik Berrens, Irina Tautschnig)

In the second period of the institute (2018–2024), the research line will turn its attention to the role of Latin in the development of Early Modern science. While the Early Modern history of science has experienced a growing boom in the last decades, the texts on which the so-called ‘scientific revolution’ was based have received scant attention at best. It is often supposed that the success of modern science was the inevitable consequence of its impressive experimental and technical results. However, these results were by no means so expressive from the beginning; in many disciplines, they were lacking altogether. Inventions like the steam engine or vaccination that changed human life for the better on a large scale agglomerated only from the beginning of modernity, that is, after the moment when they might have been instrumental in winning the new science’s general recognition. In fact, the most important medium for early modern scientists to convince their contemporaries was texts – a tremendous mass of texts in most different genres: treatises, dissertations, journal articles, letters, dialogues, biographies of scientists, didactic epics, corollary poems and so forth.

The structure and staff of the programme line will differ from the previous phase as well as the other two programme lines within the LBI: Thanks to a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant granted to Martin Korenjak in March 2017, there will be six researchers working on the topic of Neo-Latin and Early Modern science, three within the LBI and three at the University’s Classics department. They will carry out six different sub-projects, concerned with the various genres in which Early Modern science was brought forth, as well as with the ways in which the many new, sometimes radical ideas were labelled, explained and conveyed to the audience. Apart from articles, conference papers and other activities, the individual sub-projects will result in six monographs shedding light on different aspects of the role of Latin for Early Modern science.

Thus, the LBI’s Science Line, together with the ERC funded project  “NOSCEMUS”, aims at alerting today’s scientific community to the existence of the forgotten scientific literature of early modern times and to establish this literature as a legitimate and important object of research in the history of science. The humanistic and rhetorical characteristics that distinguish it sharply from modern texts in the natural sciences shall be scrutinized and it will be shown how they served to present people with startling novelties in acceptable and convincing form and to promote the new science as a whole.