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Marilynn Desmond

CEMERS director earns Rome Prize

Harpur College scholar Marilynn Desmond is conducting research at the Vatican library with support from a coveted Rome Prize.

"Being able to work at the Vatican for six months is a privilege," says Desmond, a distinguished professor of English and comparative literature and director of the University's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. "It'll be exciting to be able to spend as much time as I want to work with the manuscript and get to know it."

The fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is one of about 30 awarded annually.

Desmond's next project is titled The Fall of Troy and the Origins of Europe: Homer and the Medieval West.

It addresses the way the Trojan War was understood in medieval European vernacular cultures.

"The Greek text of the Homeric epics was unavailable to the medieval Latin West," she notes. "The narrative of the Fall of Troy was transmitted only through Latin texts."

Desmond believes a French manuscript, the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, helped bring the Troy narrative to western cultures that lacked Greek literacy. In Rome, she will have access to a manuscript of the Roman de Troie produced in Italy around 1300.

It was among the source materials for the Histoire ancienne. Since this illustrated manuscript has not been digitized, its visual aspects can only be studied in person.

— Rachel Coker

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Last Updated: 3/1/17