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Approaching Latin along the border line dividing the academic humanities from public discourse, this essay explores the possibility of articulating a publicly responsible practice of Latin literary studies. I suggest that the current eclecticism in literary studies well serves the project of democratic criticism at a time when the traditional raison d'être of the university as the preserver of Euro-American culture is in decline. Next I draw on my current work on the republican tradition in literature and political thought, focusing on translations of Vergil by the 17th-century theorist James Harrington. The study of reception is a crucial part of renewing Latin studies for the new world, I suggest, because it reveals the role of Latin literature in shaping modern conceptions of the political, the aesthetic, and the relation between the two. Concluding, I turn briefly to Cicero, whose blurring of the political and the aesthetic calls into question our habits of thinking about the transition from Republic and Empire.