Translatio studii

"Translatio studii" is the geographic movement of learning. In the Renaissance and later, historians saw the metaphorical light of learning as moving much as the light of the sun did: westward. According to this notion, the first center of learning was Eden, followed by Jerusalem, and Babylon. From there, the light of learning moved westward to Athens, and then west to Rome. After Rome, learning moved west to Paris. From thence, enlightenment moved west to Amsterdam and London. The metaphor of "translatio studii" went out of fashion in the 18th century, but such English Renaissance authors as George Herbert were already predicting that learning would move next to America. The metaphor of the "dawning of reason" was also part of the metaphor of "enlightenment."

A pessimistic corollary metaphor is the "translatio stultitia." As learning moves west, as the earth turns and light falls ever westward, so night follows and claims the places learning has departed from. The metaphor of the translatio stultitia informs Alexander Pope's "Dunciad," and particularly book IV of the "Greater Dunciad" of 1741, which opens with the nihilistic invocation::"Yet, yet a moment, one dim Ray of Light:Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!" ("B" IV 1-2):"Suspend a while your Force inertly strong,:Then take at once the Poet, and the Song." (ibid. 7-8).

ee also

*translatio imperii - ( _la. transfer of rule) - the geographic movement of temporal power


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