Dr. S.T.M. (Susanna) de Beer

  • Researcher
  • Lecturer
  • (Neo-)Latin literature
  • Renaissance humanism

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2671
E-Mail: s.t.m.de.beer@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, Moderne Engelstalige letterkunde
Office Address: Johan Huizingagebouw
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 1.06b


Fields of interest

  • (Renaissance) Latin poetry
  • Italian humanism
  • The city and symbol of Rome
  • Literary patronage
  • Classical Reception Studies
  • Neo-Latin commentaries
  • Digital Humanities

Visions of Rome. The Reception of the Roman Heritage in Art and Literature

On Friday 6 November 2015 a symposium will take place at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. This symposium brings together experts from different disciplines to discuss the ways in which the ancient Roman legacy was appropriated in art and literature of the Renaissance and beyond. As such it marks the closure of the research project ‘Visions of Rome. Strategic Appropriation of the Roman Heritage in Humanist Latin Poetry’, conducted by Susanna de Beer (Leiden University) and funded by NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).


10:30-11.00 Welcome & Coffee

Lorenzo Valla’s Restauratio linguae Romanae
Lodi Nauta (University of Groningen)

“Romano ritu Curia prima fuit.” La problematica eredità di Roma nella poesia medicea
Donatella Coppini (Università degli Studi, Firenze)

12:30-14:00 Lunch

Digging, Dragging, and Lifting: Metaphors of Movement in Roman Antiquarianism
Kathleen Christian (Open University, London)

A Flemish antiquarian in Baroque Rome: Justus Rycquius and his monograph on the ancient Capitol
Marc Laureys (University of Bonn)

15:30-16:00 Tea/Coffee

Wandering in the city of the dead: art, crime, fantasy and religious error in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Marble faun
Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck, University of London)

Mapping Visions of Rome: a digital approach to the literary and artistic appropriations of the Eternal City
Susanna de Beer (Leiden University)

17:30 Aperitivo

For more information see www.knir.it/en/events

If you would like to participate, please send an RSVP at info@knir.it

Current projects

Mapping Visions of Rome (poster)

The main goal of this project, which is designed in the research environment Nodegoat, is to make available a collection of (Renaissance) Latin poetry related to the city and symbol of Rome, and to offer tools to analyze these texts individually or comparatively and map them on various literary, geographical and chronological axes.


Digital Roman Heritage (poster)

This web portal is the virtual home of Digital Roman Heritage, an international research collaboration network that brings together Digital Humanities initiatives with regard to the physical, artistic and literary legacy of Rome. The network has been established at the e-Rome Workshop held 4-5 March 2015 at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar.

The main aims of this network are to share best practices, and to facilitate the digital linkage between projects from various disciplines related to the city and symbol of Rome. To this purpose the network 1) hosts a web portal to present projects and activities 2) meets regularly to discuss collaboration 3) applies for grants to further data exchange.



The Poetics of Patronage. Poetry as Self-Advancement in Giannantonio Campano (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013).

This study examines the system and poetics of literary patronage in the Renaissance by presenting a comprehensive analysis of the poetry of Giannantonio Campano. In this way, it  addresses two themes largely overlooked by modern scholarship. Most studies of literary patronage focus on Antiquity, the Middle Ages, or on England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If Renaissance patronage is considered at all, the focus is almost exclusively on social and political networks or on the visual arts. In spite of this, literary patronage in fact forms a crucial context for our understanding of the work and careers of Renaissance writers like Campano.

By analysing Campano’s poetry in relation to his various patronage relationships, this study also offers the first comprehensive introduction to his poetic oeuvre. His poems not only shed light on his own patronage relationships with important Renaissance princes such as Pope Pius II and Federico da Montefeltro, but also revive and appropriate the ancient literary patronage discourse found in the poetry of Horace, Ovid, Martial and other classical writers. This study not only focuses on the social function of Campano’s poetry, therefore, but also explores its distinct literary character.

NIAS fellowship 2014-2015

For the academic year 2014-2015 Susanna de Beer has received an individual fellowship at NIAS for the project Mapping Humanist Visions of Rome: Sharing and Visualizing Poetic Appropriations of the Roman Physical and Literary Heritage. This research project will combine the finishing of her VENI research with a spin-off of that same project in the field of computational humanities.

During the stay at NIAS Susanna will work on a monograph that explores five competing images of Rome found in humanist Latin Poetry. Moreover she will design an interactive internet database to figuratively and literally map the data involved. The first purpose is to create a research collaboratory that stores, systematizes and renders searchable valuable literary sources in relation to physical places in Rome. A second purpose is to systematize the data in such a way that they can be linked to existing databases or applications related to (Renaissance) Rome (such as www.hadrianus.it or www.census.de), and make them available both for interdisciplinary research and popular dissemination.

A pilot database for this project is already under construction in close cooperation with the KNAW-funded project Mapping Notes and Nodes in Networks, in which potential relationships in biographical data and cultural networks in the creative industry in Amsterdam and Rome in the Early Modern Period are explored. During the MA Tutorial Classics ‘Writing Rome. The Physical and Symbolic City in Latin Poetry’, students have already started experimenting with tagging Latin texts about Rome for this purpose.


Current research
Visions of Rome. Strategic Appropriation of the Roman Heritage in Humanist Latin Poetry (VENI from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)

Capitol Hill in Washington and Mussolini’s triumphal road along the Forum Romanum both present a visual connection to ancient Rome that supports a claim to power. These claims could only be plausible because the city of Rome was – and still is -a heritage site of shared cultural, political and religious milestones. This central position is largely the result of the activities of the Renaissance humanists. They fervently uncovered the glorious Roman past that was still perceptible in the ruined monuments and the Latin Classics. At the same time they restored the Roman heritage by new literary output. This process of preservation and renovation is reflected in the visions of Rome articulated in humanist Latin poetry. A systematic study of these texts is particularly rewarding, because they were written by the main agents in this process, and combine ancient and contemporary, visual and literary images of the eternal city. These images range from Rome as the capital of a powerful empire to a ruined city; from Rome as the iconic centre of Christian faith to the target of the Protestant Reformation.

This research project aims at mapping and understanding these contrasting visions, by viewing them as the result of a dynamic process of selection, interpretation and appropriation of the Roman heritage. It is my hypothesis that these images were strategically employed in order to shape the identities of the humanists and their audience and to legitimize the political and religious powers involved. I furthermore assume that the Latin literary genres, themes and motifs employed support and unite these strategies. By adopting a multidisciplinary approach, consisting of literary, cultural-historical and sociological methods I will offer a new interpretative framework for the flexibility of the Roman image as strategic appropriation of Rome’s literary and cultural heritage.   

Former research
Roman Scientific and Encyclopaedic Literature: Foundation and Authorisation of Early Modern Knowledge

Postdoc-project within the NWO-project supervised by Prof. K.A.E. Enenkel ‘The New Management of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period: The Transmission of Classical Latin Literature via Neo-Latin Commentaries’.


'The World Upside Down. The Geographical Revolution in Humanist Commentaries on Pliny's Natural History and Mela's De situ orbis (140-1700)', in: Enenkel, K.A.E. & Nellen, H. (Eds.), Neo-Latin Commentaries and the Management of Knowledge in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period (1400-1700).Humanistica Lovaniensia Supplementa 33 (Leuven: Leuven UP, 2013), pp. 139-197.

Although much of the information presented in ancient geographical treatises became obsolete during what is termed ‘the Geographical Revolution’, the interest in these texts by no means declined, on the contrary, as the wealth of new text editions and commentaries shows. This article seeks to clarify this seeming paradox through a detailed analysis of a selection of early modern commentaries on Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia and Pomponius Mela’s De situ orbis. As mediators between ancient text and early modern reader these commentaries provide valuable clues as to how these ancient texts were read and to what purpose, and teach us how ancient authority functioned in a period of transition. This study argues that whether or how the commentaries problematized the relationship between ancient and early modern knowledge was not primarily determined by the actual knowledge of the new geographical developments, but depended on a number of parameters, among which the commentators’ position in current scholarly debates and expected readership were the most important.

‘The Survival of Pliny in Padua. The Botanical Renaissance and the Transformation of Classical Scholarship’ in: Transformations of the Classics via Early Modern Commentaries, ed. by K.A.E. Enenkel. Intersections 29 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, forthcoming autumn 2013), pp. 327-62.

In the past few decades we have learned that despite the remarkable innovations in Renaissance medical botany, the role of ancient texts was by no means played out. On the contrary, they appear to have played a crucial role in the development of the new discipline and its methods. At the same time scholars with botanical expertise started to challenge, correct and supplement the ancient botanical texts with new knowledge. However, we still do not know exactly how this transformation of classical scholarship worked in practice, which roles disappeared and which remained. This article gives a first answer to these questions by tracing the changed attitudes to reading ancient botanical texts in a number of humanist commentaries on Pliny the Elder’s Natural History and Dioscorides’ De materia medica. It is argued that the role of ancient texts was transformed in such a way that it could still meet the requirements of the botanical discipline, its practitioners and its beneficiaries, by providing the organizational principle of botanical knowledge and lending authorization to medical botany as an autonomous discipline in general, and to the related scholarly competences and commercial benefits in particular.

Curriculum vitae

Post-doctoral researcher and University lecturer Renaissance Latin at the Department of Classics, Leiden University

Doctorate (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam. Supervisors: Prof. B. Kempers & Prof. K.A.E. Enenkel

Supervisor (ad interim) of the Huizinga Institute, Graduate School for Cultural History in Amsterdam

Employee at Burgersdijk & Niermans, Antiquarian Bookshop and Auction House, Leiden
Study of Classical Languages at Leiden University, with a specialization in (Neo-)Latin literature

Awards and scholarships

VENI grant from the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Resarch

ICH Award for ‘Promovendus of the Year’ ( Institute of Culture & History, University of Amsterdam)

Several research scholarships at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR) and the Dutch Art-historical Institute in Florence (NIKI), co-sponsored by NWO

Teaching activities

My teaching activities range from language acquisition in BA1, the introduction to Renaissance Latin in BA2, to seminars on various topics related to (Renaissance) Latin for BA3 and (R)MA, such as epigrammatic poetry, literary patronage, exile literature and Rome in Latin literature.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015