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Women Writing Latin: An Introduction

Latin literacy, the ability to write as well as to read Latin, has usually been understood to be fundamental to institutions of male power and authority in the period extending from Roman antiquity to early modern Europe. As such, Latin has been understood as the language of empire, scholarship, and the church-the language of patriarchal power-for two thousand years. Recently, however, scholars have begun to recognize ways women have participated in the institutions associated with power and authority. With this recognition comes a growing awareness of women’s roles in Latin literacy and the roles Latin literacy have played in women’s lives. The writers represented in the three volumes of Women Writing Latin are bound not by geography or time or vernacular language but by their connection to Latinate cultural literacy, which has influenced Western culture from the classical era through the European Christian Middle Ages and beyond.