Latin: Or the Empire of a Sign

Latin: Or the Empire of a Sign


By (author) Francois Waquet, Translated by John Howe


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  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Format: Paperback | 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 173mm x 229mm x 28mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 1 January 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1859844022
  • ISBN 13: 9781859844021
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 893,603

Product description

This is a history of Latin between the 16th and 20th centuries, a period when the language dominated the civic and sacred worlds of Europe and, arguably, the entire Western world. The book explores the institutional contexts in which the language was adopted and transmitted, as well as the privilege it came to confer on those that studied it. Waquet demonstrates how Latin became a symbol of status and ultimately shows that, rather than disappearing, this has given way to a nostalgic exoticism such that water companies and car models now use Latin names. This is a work of reference, but it is also a cultural history, detailing the power struggles that took place in education and the world of science over Latin's status.

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Author information

Francoise Waquet is a director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Among her previous books are Les fetes royales sous la Restauration ou l'Ancien Regime retrouve and, with Hans Bots, La Republique des Lettres.

Review quote

""Latin is dead and this book is its epitaph ... it is the merit and interest of Waquet's survey that she finds Latin not only deployed for the liturgy, but also to describe things carnal, pornographic, or otherwise shameful. -- Daily Telegraph "... richly researched and delightful... with scholars of Waquet's generosity and ability, the old language might yet have a future." - New Criterion "Waquet.s wonderful, readable book (in Howe's fine translation) provides an intellectual history of the Latin language ... Waquet memorabluy charts Latin's reception in scholarly, comic, tender and exhaustive detail through learned, literary and popular sources." - Choice "... the book is valuable if for no other reason than for the historical light is sheds on contemporary debates over the value of a 'traditional' education - and for reminding us that a classical education is sometimes more about class than about education." - Washington Times "...detailed and wide-ranging..." - Los Angeles Times Book Review ... a lucid , learned retelling of the fortunes of the Latin language in the modern era. A scholarly work, this will nonetheless appeal to general readers as well." - History "...[a] fascinating and lively survey of the place of Latin western culture during the past 400 years." - Independent "It is a wonderful survey of the uses to which we have put Latin." - A. N. Wilson "... an eloquent obituary..." - Spectator "And for something completely differently serious, read part of Europe's future in part of its past: the fascinating Latin: or the Empire of a Sign." - A.C. Grayling, Guardian, Summer Choice 2002 ""A splendid book: original in method, suggestive in argument, and a pleasure to read."" -- London Review of Books