Ernst robert curtius: A medievalist’s contempt for the middle ages

C. Stephen Jaeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


E. R. Curtius had a dismissive attitude toward both the literature and culture he studied in European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (ELLMA). After a dissertation editing an Old French bible epic, he moved immediately to modern French, Spanish and English literature. During the Nazi period he took shelter in the Latin Middle Ages. While his work appeared harmless and unengaged to the Nazi censor, he developed his vision of a European culture held together by an embracing Latin culture. A complex psychology which undergirded his return to the Middle Ages is a main focus of the present article. He felt with near religious conviction that he was invested with a mission to restore a shattered European culture after WW II. ELLMA may have helped fulfil that mission, but it had a narrowing effect on the study of medieval literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-380
Number of pages14
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • E. R. Curtius
  • European cultural unity
  • European literature and the latin middle ages
  • Historical decadence
  • Historical recurrence
  • Jungian archetypes
  • Medieval education
  • Medieval poetry
  • Medieval rhetoric
  • Rome as archetype
  • Theory of literary forms
  • Topos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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