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The Other Virgil`Pessimistic' Readings of the Aeneid in Early Modern Culture$
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Craig Kallendorf

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212361.001.0001

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(p.67) 2 Colonization
The Other Virgil

Craig Kallendorf (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter develops the connection between the Aeneid and the imperial projects of the 15th and 16th centuries. It was easy for the colonizers to cast themselves in the role of Aeneas and the conquering Trojans, and this approach accorded well with the demands of the schools, which tended then, as now, to eschew moral complexity. But then as now, again, more mature readers in different environments were able to see that Virgil presented both what is lost as well as what is gained in conquest, so that as early as Bartolomé de Las Casas, some Europeans were able, like Virgil, to see imperialism from the other side. Some of them, like Alonso de Ercilla and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, are still known to specialists and to educated people in their own countries; and others, like William Shakespeare, are known wherever Western culture has penetrated. All of them, however, turned the model text of the colonizers against them, focusing on the ‘other voices’ in the Aeneid in a series of protests that became more insistent as the Virgilian imitations moved from epic to drama to lyric. This line of argument suggests, in turn, that Virgil's place in the ideology of the Ancien Régime is also more complicated than traditional historiography suggests.

Keywords:   Aeneid, Alonso de Ercilla, La Araucana, The Tempest, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, William Shakespeare

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