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Conference | “Love and Heroism in Neo-Latin Epic Poetry” (September 20–22)

Innsbruck, September 20–22, 2018

Organized by Dennis Pulina (University of Freiburg) and Florian Schaffenrath (University of Innsbruck)

Virgil’s narrative of Dido and Aeneas has enjoyed a wide reception throughout European literary history. Due to its treatment of themes like the fulfilment of duty, grief, and death from lovesickness, it became an example, precursor and point of reference for many Latin and vernacular love stories, and therefore remains important to this day. As a result of the complex interplay between heroism and love, many epics ignore the latter entirely, while others try to integrate love into the heroic or vice versa. The traditions of the genre notwithstanding, epic poetry is strongly influenced by changing cultural and religious beliefs, the commandments of heroism, as well as emotionality, especially within love and marriage.

This matter is particularly complex in the Latin epics of the early modern period. On the one hand, these epics are based on the ancient epic tradition, but on the other hand, the heroes and heroines rarely originate from a mythical past – they are usually contemporary figures such as Francesco Sforza or Christina of Sweden. The aim of this conference is to examine the dimensions of love woven into Neo-Latin epics, and the interdependence between love and the heroic at the intersection of literary reception of Greco-Roman antiquity and different real-world contexts. As has been shown by Yasmin Haskell’s recent research on emotions in early modern Latin poetry as well as in Ludwig Braun’s contemplations in his provocatively titled paper, “Why Is There No Love in Neo-Latin Epic Poetry?” (“Warum gibt es im neulateinischen Epos keine Liebe?”), the topic of love and the heroic in Neo-Latin epics is not only vastly significant but also in urgent need of further critical discussion.

Considering love and heroism in tandem raises different questions. Given that a crucial duty of early modern rulers was to maintain diplomatic and economic ties, one area of investigation will be whether there was any kind of romantic love or arranged marriages implicated in dynastic or power-political considerations. Therein, a possible effect on the hero’s motivations is already indicated. Can a hero be driven by love? Are there figures who perform heroic deeds only for the sake of love, like Roland in the Italian tradition? Can an arranged marriage also motivate the hero to prove himself? Are there differences in the ways that heroes and heroines love? The conference will also shed light on the differences between subgenres of Neo-Latin epic poetry, such as epics about condottieri in fifteenth-century Italy or colonial epics set in the New World. What must one consider when reading the love story of Isotta and Sigismondo Malatesta in the Hesperis? And in a completely different context, what are the consequences of Columbus’s love for Auria, the daughter of the king of Cuba, in Carrara’s Columbus?

Since pagan gods are frequently integrated into Neo-Latin epics, resulting in a hybridization of paganism and Christianity, the conference will also look at the influence of Christian morals and commandments on matrimony. Do epics hold heroes in love to certain Christian, pagan, or even neo-Stoic standards, which suggest that representations of love are based on philosophical concepts? What does it mean when a hero’s love is depicted as moderate or excessive? How are extreme emotions such as jealousy, or even lovesick suicide, like Dido’s, depicted in a world dominated by Christian morals? The conference will also examine the way antihero love storylines are represented in contrast to the hero’s love story.

The official language of the conference is English.

Venue: University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Catholic Theology, Room: Dekanatssitzungssaal.
Karl-Rahner-Platz 1, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

Hotel: Leipziger Hof, Defreggerstr. 13, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria (

If you have any questions, please contact Florian Schaffenrath ( or Dennis Pulina (