Contract signed: Poetry and Nation-Building in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

I have just signed a contract with Arc Humanities Press for a new book, Poetry and Nation-Building in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: Three Early Modern Latin Epics, which will feature the first English translations of three early modern epic poems central to the formation of national identity in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The three poems are Bellum Prutenum (‘The Prussian War’) by Joannes Vislicensis (1516), an epic about the Jagiellonian dynasty and the Battle of Grunwald; Hodoeporicon Moschicum (‘The Muscovite Expedition’) by Franciszek Gradowski (1582), about a Lithuanian raid into Muscovy during the Livonian War; and Virtus Dexterae Domini (‘The Strength of the Lord’s Right Arm’) by James Bennet (1674) about the Lithuanian victory (and the role of Scottish emigrés) at the Battle of Khotyn. These three poems are chosen to represent the beginning, middle and mature periods of the Lithuanian Latin epic tradition. Each poem also describes a victory over a different aggressor: the Polish-Lithuanian defeat of the Teutonic Knights in 1410, Lithuanian victory over the Russians in the Livonian War and Lithuanian victory over the Turks at Khotyn in 1673.

The focus of the volume is the cultural and political significance of Latin – and Latin epic poetry, in particular – in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where Latin epic was particularly successful and thrived for a long time after Latin literature had been superseded by the vernacular in neighbouring Poland. I argue that the Latin language empowered and enabled the flourishing of a Lithuanian identity that was both distinctive and inclusive, including the different peoples and faiths who inhabited an early modern Grand Duchy whose political self-understanding was grounded in the idea of Lithuania as a kind of patrician ‘Roman’ republic. This concept of a distinctively Lithuanian Latinity, which I call Lithuanitas, is central to understanding the Grand Duchy as well as the cultures of contemporary Lithuania and Belarus.

Poetry and Nation-Building in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania will be my second book in Arc Humanities Press’s Foundations series, following on from Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic (2022).

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