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Nathaniel Hess

Research Interests

Classical Reception / History of Scholarship / Neo-Latin and Greek poetry / History of Early Modern Religion / Translation Studies


Nathaniel Hess’ background is in Classics, which he studied between 2014 and 2023 for three consecutive degrees at the University of Cambridge. Awoken in part by his own experience in composing Greek and Latin verse, his interest in the possibilities and challenges of expressing oneself in a “dead language” led him to the study of the European Renaissance – a crucial mediator between antiquity and the modern discipline of Classics, but also a period which encoded cultural peculiarities of its own in these languages. Following research into the Florentine humanist Angelo Poliziano and the finickety practice of Greek-to-Latin verse translation, his recent work uses literature of this sort to explore the religious history of the 16th century. He previously held a six-month fellowship at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, and has given talks in Cambridge, Oxford, London, Washington D.C., Tübingen, and Innsbruck, in addition to being co-convener of the Cambridge Classical Reception Seminar.


During his Yates fellowship, Nathaniel is working on Latin and Greek hexameter hymns on Christian themes from the 16th century. In their self-conscious use of a pagan form – the form of ancient collections by “Homer”, Callimachus, “Orpheus”, and Proclus – these hymns are a space where worlds collide, and important questions about Christianity and its relation to the cultural heritage of the Renaissance emerge in the fall-out. As such, they are a fascinating and underutilised source for the religious history of this uncertain and complicated period. He is especially interested in the possibility that, especially in an Italian context, they can provide an insight into movements for reforming the church from within.

He is preparing an edition of one early example of this genre, the 1507 Hymni heroici tres by Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, for publication with Brill’s Sources in Early Poetics: Pico’s collection is hedged with an enormous auto-commentary, so is especially valuable in showing us how poetry of this kind was conceived and written. For the same series, he has worked extensively with Micha Lazarus in translating and proof-reading Latin texts in a forthcoming anthology of Protestant literary criticism.

Nathaniel’s PhD thesis described the invention and development of practices of Greek-to-Latin verse translation in the 15th and 16th centuries, framed around the genesis and influence of Angelo Poliziano’s work in the field. He continues to work on this topic, and over the coming year he is aiming to consolidate his research into a monograph.