Chapter

Breaking Ground: Scientific Poetry in Enlightenment Rome

Yasmin Annabel Haskell

in Loyola's Bees

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262849
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734588 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197262849.003.0005

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Breaking Ground: Scientific Poetry in Enlightenment Rome

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During the Enlightenment period, the French Jesuits were busy planting ornamental natural philosophy in the Virgilian soil; however, their counterparts in Rome were tilling rougher grounds and sowing Lucretius's seeds far below the surface. While, in general, French Jesuits are commended for leading Italy intellectually and culturally in the Enlightenment period, it was the Italian Jesuits who produced the most rigorous scientific didactic poems. Indeed, the best-known ‘Lucretian’ poem of the period was written by the Frenchman Cardinal Melchoir de Polignac; however, he was surpassed by the seventeenth-century Italian Jesuit Tommaso Ceva with his Philosophia novo-antiqua, and moreover was debunked by Benedict Stay, a young prodigy who wrote his magnum opus, the Philosophiae recentoris libri x [= Pr]. This chapter discusses the development of scientific poetry in the age of the Enlightenment in Rome. Its focus is on the analysis of some of the exemplary works of Roman poets. The chapter also provides an overview of the contemporary Italian criticism on didactic poetry, particularly those related to scientific subjects.

Keywords: Enlightenment period; Rome; Italy; Italian Jesuits; scientific didactic poems; Lucretian poem; Tommaso Ceva; Benedict Stay; scientific poetry; Roman poets

Chapter.  33112 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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