by Marilynn Desmond
University of Minnesota Press, 1994
Paper: 978-0-8166-2247-4
Library of Congress Classification PR127.D47 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 809.93351

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK

Describes the variations in the figure of Dido as she emerges from ancient literary texts.


If we view the Aeneid—the poem of empire, conquest, and male hierarchy-as the West's quintessential canonical text and Latin primer, then the history of Virgil readership should tell us much about the concept of education in the West. In this book, Marilynn Desmond reveals how a constructed and mediated tradition of reading Virgil has conditioned various interpretations among readers responding to medieval cultural and literary texts. In particular, she shows how the story of Dido has been marginalized within canonical readings of the Aeneid. Reaching back to the Middle Ages and vernacular poetic readings of Dido, Desmond recovers an alternative Virgil from historical tradition and provides another paradigm for reading the Aeneid.


Desmond follows the figure of Dido as she emerges from ancient historical and literary texts (from Timaeus and Justin to Virgil and Ovid) and circulates in medieval textual cultures. Her study ranges from the pedagogical discourses of Latin textual traditions (including Servius, Augustine, Bernard Silvestris, and John of Salisbury) to the French and English vernacular cultures inscribed in the Roman d'Eneas, the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, and the work of Dante, Chaucer, Gavin Douglas, Caxton, and Christine de Pizan. The positions of all these readers point to the cultural specificity and historical contingency of all traditions of reading; thus, this book demonstrates how medieval traditions of reading Dido offer the modern reader a series of countertraditions that support feminist, antihomophobic, and postcolonial interpretive gestures.