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Vores Cæsar. Gaius Julius Cæsars danske receptioner

HM Queen Margrethe II’s Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Danish Academy in Rome


Classical antiquity is and has been an important factor in the construction and formation of identity in Western culture, but the role of Classical culture is different under different circumstances, in different regions and in different periods. This project contributes to the examination of Denmark's relationship to and use of Classical Antiquity through the study of Gaius Julius Caesar, a central person of Classical Rome. By a diachronic study of Danish receptions of Julius Caesar, the project expects to shed new light on how Julius Caesar gained the exceptional position he has come to possess, as well as on how Denmark has fashioned and developed a relationship to Classical Antiquity.


Julius Caesar is arguably one of the most renowned figures, and his legacy is both positive and negative. Preliminary investigations show that Julius Caesar is featured or treated by significant Danes that in various ways have left their mark on Danish culture, e.g. Saxo Grammaticus, Ludvig Holberg, Søren Kierkegaard, N. F. S. Grundtvig, Sophus Claussen, Georg Brandes, and Hartvig Frisch. Julius Caesar's role in Western culture is well treated, but there is no systematic study of his Danish reception. The scope and focus of this project is narrow enough for a diachronic study of the Danish reception from the Middle Ages to now, and the figure of Caesar significant enough to expect this to give general insight into tendencies in Danish establishing of relations to the Classical heritage.


The theoretical framework of the project is reception theory, especially Jauss' concept of flexible horizons of expectations and cultural memory studies, especially A. Assmann's dichotomy of functional and storage memory. The project will mostly, but not exclusively, examine textual material; an important case is the excavation Caesar's Forum and the interest generated by it in the media. Studies of individual works where Julius Caesar is featured or treated and comparisons of ditto in different works will be carried out by use of narratology and intertextuality. The Danish results will be contextualised in the Western tradition that the Danish results are expected to reflect, albeit the dominating influences are expected to be different according to periods and other circumstances.


The results of the project will be directly relevant for the Danish Gymnasium, particularly for courses in Latin and Oldtidskundskab (Classical Civilisation) that, among other things, teaches ancient Greek and Latin literature valuing the impact on later cultures (cf. Stx). The results of the project are expected to provide historically grounded arguments for how Danish research in ancient Greek and Roman culture is relevant.