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Arcadius Avellanus: Neo-Latin Works of the Early 20th century

Patrick M. Owens

Despite his being perhaps the most prolific Neo-Latin author of the late 19th and early 20th century, Arcadius Avellanus’ work has received little or no serious treatment.  A Hungarian by birth, Avellanus immigrated to the United States in his twenties and immediately began a career in writing and publishing that lasted four decades.  In order to stimulate change in contemporary pedagogy, Avellanus composed a textbook of active Latin. In 1894 he founded the monthly neo-Latin journal Praeco Latinus, which published contemporary news, literary essays, and Latin verses throughout America and Europe. After teaching at St. Bonaventure University (then College), St. John’s University, and the University of Pennsylvania, Avellanus became a private tutor to John D. Rockefeller’s grandchildren.  In this capacity he penned some short stories and translated others, first for the private use of the Rockefeller-Prentice family and eventually for public consumption.  Avellanus became a leading voice for Neo-Latin circles in America and corresponded with other similarly minded academics to found an international association for the study of Latin from antiquity to the modern period.

Avellanus' name and his work have largely been consigned to oblivion.  His work simultaneously demonstrates a notable continuity with some of the Magyar Latinists and a discontinuity with other renaissance humanists of Western Europe.  Avellanus’ particular pedagogical revolution never quite took hold in schools.  His textbook was, as far as one can tell, never seriously used, and his literary works were mostly read by individual aficionados.  Avellanus attained greater success in the foundation of an international association of broad-minded Latinists, and especially in his monthly periodical.  Praeco Latinus was widely circulated in the U.S. and in Europe and served as a bridge between the unbroken chain of Neo-Latin in Hungary and the contemporary active Latinists in North America and around the globe.  The journal was a forerunner to other Latin magazines and periodicals in Europe and America. 

Arcadius Avellanus’ life was shrouded in great mystery.  Even his contemporaries did not know the details of his education and immigration to the United States of America.  Hitherto, there has been no study of Avellanus’ work or life.  The aim of this paper is to publish a detailed biography  of Avellanus and an analysis of the underlying theory, pedagogy, and Latin-style of his works, as well as to delineate the immense influence he had on 20th century Neo-Latin—a period of Neo-Latin which rarely receives the academic attention it deserves.

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The World of Neo-Latin: Current Research

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