Department of Classical Studies
Time: 12:00PM - 01:00PM
Classics Library, 2175 Angell
In the pre-modern world, cosmopolitan languages were used to cheat the limitations of vernacular tongues, to communicate across vast reaches of space and time. These lingua francas of literary culture - Greek, Latin, and Arabic; Hebrew, Armenian, and Ottoman Turkish - possessed an extraordinary geographical and historical reach, allowing the writer to engage in trans-regional and trans-historical literary and intellectual conversations. The national languages of European modernity would make immediacy their crowning virtue: their intimate connection to contemporary usage guaranteed their relevance, efficacy, and vitality. And in order to maintain a dynamic bond with a linguistic community, they must sacrifice geographical and chronological range. But the cosmopolitan language, in contrast, is not limited by the territorial and historical boundaries of the modern nation. And it is no one's mother tongue. Rather, it must be studied and learned as the price of entry to a literate culture defined not by geographical and historical horizons, but by a more capacious, and self-consciously constructed, sense of belonging.