Recent work on Virgil’s Aeneid Book 6



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© Helen Slaney 2009

Recent work on Virgil’s Aeneid Book 6
This resource is designed to give you a swift and honest appraisal of current scholarship pertaining to Aeneid Book 6. It comes with some caveats:
1. The total bibliography on Virgil is enormous, so this won’t give you exhaustive coverage. I’ve picked the eye-teeth out of work published between 1990 and 2009 in order to identify general trends. For further references, you can consult the bibliography pages in Vergilius, the journal of the US Vergil Society. The website www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/werner_vergil.html also supplies extensive resources, conveniently organised by topic. Another good starting point is the annotated bibliography in Grandsen (2004).
2. I’ve also only included scholarship in English, because it’s the most generally accessible, and to limit the scope of the project. There are of course also considerable bodies of work on the Aeneid in German, French and Italian, for those who are interested in following up Continental traditions.
3. This is not an impartial document. It’s important to acknowledge one’s own intellectual position and ideological tendencies, because these inevitably inform the work. So I’d like to declare up-front my interests in the growth industry that is Classical Reception Studies. However, because this is in accord with prevalent directions in (at least half of) the discipline - see Edmunds’ 2005 evaluation - I believe scholarly rigour can only be improved by dropping the pretence of objectivity in favour of a more involved, self-reflexive approach.
The problem with teaching a text in another language, according to D.E. Connor (2006), especially a language as remote and highly wrought as literary Latin, is keeping an eye on the big picture. The myopia induced by close reading needs to be counteracted by a few sharp glances back down the longue durée. Where did this text come from? What does it mean? These deceptively simple questions can be addressed in many ways: by exploring Augustan culture, or textual transmission, or Virgilian poetics, or critical polemic, or, as one particularly wacky 2006 article proposes, ecofeminism. (No, don’t. Don’t. It will do justice neither to the Aeneid nor to ecofeminism. The Georgics, conceivably. Not the Aeneid.) Charles Martindale, on the other hand, suggests that Virgil’s Aeneid may used as a starting point to discuss ‘the status and significance of the canon’ (1997: 1). Exactly how this poem became a master-text of Western literature, and whether it still retains its eminence, remains an unsolved issue that taps into the really troubling questions: why are we reading it? What is it for? What do we need from Virgil here and now?


Contents
1. Europe vs. Harvard: where to after the death-match?
2. Redefining the Augustan context
3. Commentaries and articles on Aeneid VI
4. The politics of pity
5. Vergil, Virgil and “Virgil”
6. Conclusions and bibliography

1. Europe vs Harvard: where to after the death-match?

Although this debate can no longer be called current in any meaningful sense, it’s still essential to any interpretation of the Aeneid and continues to haunt the scholarship. It’s also becoming an object of study in its own right: see, for example, Farrell (2001), Schmidt (2001), Thomas (2001) and Edmunds (2005). Various terms have been coined to classify the two extreme positions on the spectrum of reading the Aeneid. The most common terms are optimistic/pessimistic; European/Harvard; objective/subjective; Augustan/anti-Augustan; and imperialist/pacifist. Basically, if you’re an optimistic, European, objective, Augustan imperialist (following Hardie, Cairns, Galinsky and most twentieth-century German scholars), you take Virgil’s epic as a sublime glorification of the Roman state, a single-minded pursuit of destiny that culminates in the justified, sanctified rule of pius Augustus. If you’re a pessimistic, Harvard-school, subjective, anti-Augustan pacifist, though (following Johnson, Boyle, Lyne and Putnam), you find the poem too riddled with ambiguity, too stained with blood and grief and too blotted with shadows to be anything but subversive.


Both of these readings are now distinctly unfashionable. The Aeneid’s (re)politicization in the latter half of the twentieth century has been recognised as springing from a zeitgeist hostile to European totalitarianism and US imperialism, and from an academy newly suspicious of myths constructed to protect power. Schmidt (2001) gives a useful overview of how major critical interpretations of the Aeneid, both positive and negative, are embedded in twentieth-century politics.1 Binarism, as Farrell (2001) has argued persuasively, if a little reductively, went nicely with Cold War politics. Now, to suit a more polycentric world, the Aeneid has acquired some new buzz-words: polyvalence, polysemy, heterogeneity, openness, plurality, relativism, indeterminacy, ambiguity, ambivalence, dynamism.2 Rather than mounting a specific ideological soapbox, Virgil’s poem presents its readers with concentrated conflicts of interest, or multiple points of view that cannot be reconciled. The roots of this kind of character-based or, alternatively, individual-against-fate dialectic may be traced back to Greek tragedy.3 It then becomes the responsibility of each reader - whether that reader is Augustus, Lucan, Dante, T.S. Eliot, A.J. Boyle or you - to weigh the options and decide what is required of the Aeneid at its current point of reception. (See section 5 for more on Virgilian Nachleben.)
Of course, residual common-sense conservatives like Horsfall (1995) and Powell (1992) are still exchanging volleys with hard-core radicals like Casali (2006) and Putnam (2003). But most discussion now focuses less on suppressing one Virgilian “voice” in favour of another than acknowledging the coexistence of multiple perspectives on Roman empire, and the friction generated by their interdependence.4 Conte’s Poetry of Pathos (2007) provides probably the best current text-based argument for the Aeneid as “polycentric”. In his introduction to Conte’s study, Harrison confirms that the once-formidable barricades separating optimists from pessimists have ‘fortunately broken down.’ Picking through the rubble, however, yields a fresh and fertile crop of questions which the following sections attempt to address.


2. Redefining the Augustan context

There is no objective point from which to comfortably survey the past, and no objective background of “culture” against which a text, in this case the Aeneid, can be isolated. Culture is comprised of multiple texts that circulate and interact. These don’t have to be literary texts, but can include artwork and iconography, architecture, material remains and artifacts, anthropological practices such as burial and ritual, myth, landscapes, scientific knowledge and the human body itself.5 It is no longer sufficient to regard the Aeneid as the self-contained product of an otherwise immobile historical moment. Our image of Augustan Rome is itself derived from Virgil’s work in conjunction with numerous other texts. The poem’s meaning began to shift as soon as it was devised, and any interpretive assertions must come accompanied by warnings about their subjectivity, partiality and historical contingency.


As Thomas (2001: 35) argues, ‘Augustus, and the reception of Augustus, controls and diverts the Virgilian text.’ What are your views on Augustus? And where did you acquire them? Is he the smooth-faced boy-warrior of the Prima Porta, or the paranoid despot who exiled Ovid? Syme’s crypto-Hitler or a more benevolent restorer of the Golden Age, spreading justice and mercy and the Pax Romana? Because it’s really not possible to read the Aeneid without negotiating its relationship to Augustus, this section looks at major recent scholarship on the period.
Establishing your options in a historical framework takes us back to the late nineteenth century, when Virgil started to be taken seriously as a poet (Turner, 1993). To be Augustus’ panegyricist was, at this point, unproblematic: the British empire was booming, a smattering of Latin was the mark of a gentleman, and if your Latin could include a few tags about imperial responsibilities - debellare superbos, and all that - so much the better. From the 1930s, however, as world domination began to acquire the sour taint of Italian and German nationalism, a new Virgil emerged, a seedy propagandist pumping his master full of totalitarian dreams. Although the image of Fürher Augustus persisted, the countercultural revolution of the 1960s allowed Virgil to break away and shatter his epic with voices that spoke for the oppositional and the oppressed.6 This reading became increasingly popular into the 1990s, when new work on the Augustan regime and its “cultural program” began to challenge the Princeps’ individual dominance, assigning a more active role to artists in constructing and/or deconstructing “Augustus” as a concept.
Paul Zanker’s 1990 study, The power of images in the age of Augustus, is the seminal examination of how otherwise neutral symbols of fertility and divinity became progressively, and not altogether systematically, associated with Julian rule. Also crucial is Peter White’s Promised verse: poets in the society of Augustan Rome (1994), which engages with the idea of patronage and concludes that it did not entail coercion. Two collections of essays, Roman poetry and propaganda (ed. Powell, 1992) and The Roman cultural revolution (eds. Habinek and Schiesaro, 1997), followed by the more recent Cambridge companion to the age of Augustus (ed. Galinsky, 2005) present a range of more or less revisionist viewpoints.
Because the Augustan political structure and accompanying culture did not pre-exist, but were in the process of formulation, it doesn’t make sense to talk about Virgil’s opposition or support for a “program” that had not yet cohered. Rather, current scholarship leans towards investigating how the Aeneid contributed to an ongoing negotiation of Augustan authority. One important facet of the Aeneid’s contribution, as Hardie (1998: 63-69) points out, is the rewriting of Roman history. Along with Livy and Propertius, Virgil participated in fashioning an image of archaic Rome that cast the Augustan present as restorative, not revolutionary. Finally, however, and most recently, the constructivist reading of Augustan Rome has led critics to interrogate in addition the modern political significance of claiming Virgil for the rebels or the partisans.


3. Commentaries and articles on Aeneid VI

Context is all well and good, but we should probably get back to the poem. This section looks specifically at work that’s been done on A6 since the 1990s, with particular reference to passages on this year’s syllabus. Naturally, the irresistibly enigmatic Gates of Sleep are still spawning interpretations, as is poor Marcellus (more on him in section 4, though), and Aeneas’ confrontation with Dido’s shade is assuming fresh prominence. Virgil’s idiosyncratic take on katabasis, especially his departures from Odyssey XI, is also attracting attention. Everyone agrees that A6 is the centerpiece, the jewel in the crown that Caesar refused, but the jury’s still out on what that might actually mean.


As far as commentaries go, Maclennan’s new one (2003) is a good solid school text that comes with an introduction, synopsis and extensive grammar/syntax assistance in the notes. It can easily be supplemented with material from the less user-friendly but more scholarly Austin (1955) or Williams (1972). I’d definitely recommend Maclennan as a classroom resource, especially if you utilise the student guides by Hardie (1998) and/or Grandsen (2004) as further introductory reading. Horsfall should hopefully be bringing out an A6 commentary in the next few years, so look out for that; in the meantime, his 1995 Companion to the study of Virgil, although a bit dry and positivist for my taste, has a lot of useful data including a taxonomy of Virgilian vocabulary (p220ff) and a review of the evidence for Virgil’s circulation in antiquity (p252ff).
Zetzel’s ‘Romane memento: justice and judgment in Aeneid 6’ (1989), while it’s a little outside our survey period, is a great place to start exploring Virgil’s Underworld. It locates the book in the turning point at ‘the end of one saeculum and the beginning of another’ (p264), linking its Sibylline and Mystery-cult rituals to the ceremonies performed in 17 BC at Augustus’ Ludi Saeculares. A6’s double, incompatible visions of the afterlife - primeval Tartarus versus the neo-Platonic transmigration of souls - can thus be related to a Rome where bloody vendettas are giving way to an ideology of cyclic renewal.7 (Meanwhile, check out the unhappy afterlife of the Sibyl herself in Lucan, Petronius, T.S. Eliot and Reginald Hill’s Arms and the Women). The shades who wait to cross the Styx are used by Warden (2000: 358) as an illustration of cupido, or ‘the motif of ungraspability, of unfulfilment’ that haunts Aeneas’ quest.
Moving on through Acheron brings us to Aeneas’ encounter with Dido’s spirit, the subject of Feldherr’s fascinating, if convoluted 1999 article ‘Putting Dido on the map: genre and geography in Virgil’s Underworld’. Feldherr correlates the fluidity of genre in their encounter - is it epic? elegiac? tragic? Neoteric? - with the Underworld’s fluid topography. Both resist “mapping” and exceed firm definition.8 This analysis is a distinct improvement on Smith (1993), whose identification of Catullan intertext in lines 6.456-66 starts promisingly enough, but ultimately goes nowhere. Similarly, don’t bother with G.P. Goold’s ‘The voice of Virgil: the pageant of Rome in Aeneid 6’ (1992) unless you’re particularly interested in reconstructing the pronunciation of Virgil’s Latin. R.D. Williams’ ‘The sixth book of the Aeneid’, however, first published in 1964 but reprinted in Harrison (1990), is still essential reading: it lucidly introduces the psychoanalytic aspect of Aeneas’ katabasis, defining it as a confrontation and reconciliation with his own past and future. The parade of heroes receives its most accessible critique in O’Hara (1990: 163-72).
Finally, then, we arrive with some trepidation at the Gates of Sleep. As late as 1994, Cockburn was still trying to fix the anomaly by mucking about with the text, but thankfully it’s now generally accepted that Yes, Virgil really did mean falsa insomnia, and Yes, that does make Anchises’ prophecy seem just a tad dodgy. The most sensible treatment of the subject is Molyviati-Toptsis (1995), which concludes that ‘the falsa insomnia are an authorial comment on the deceptive quality of Anchises’ speech’ and its selective representation of Roman history (p650). Molyviati-Toptsis avoids falling back on the rather strained neo-Platonic solutions proposed by Tarrant, West (both reprinted in Harrison 1990) and Fratantuono (2007).9 Instead, she follows Putnam and O’Hara in acknowledging Virgil’s emphasis on the fallibility of artistic and/or prophetic representation. At this point, then, it seems appropriate to turn to another dominant stream in Virgilian studies: authority, voice and the ideology of pity.


4. The politics of pity

Let’s talk narratology. Everyone’s doing it, you know you want to try some. And it isn’t as unpalatably pure now as it was in the 1990s when Fowler first identified this ‘particular line of interpretation… about to make its appearance’ in Virgilian studies (1990: 40). Now, you’ll generally find it cut with other topics - eg ecphrasis, characterisation or ideology - and traded under street names such as empathy, sympathy, point of view, pathos, subjectivity, or, most commonly, voice. (Fowler’s polysyllabic moniker “deviant focalisation” never really caught on.) But narratology’s basic questions, Who speaks? and Who sees? have become indispensible to determining the location of power and authority in Classical texts.


Melancholy has been recognised as a defining feature of the Aeneid ever since the eighteenth century,10 but has only recently acquired political overtones. Persistent intimations of loss, the beauty of doomed youth (Eurylaus, Camilla, Lausus, Marcellus), and one of Western literature’s most lachrymose heroes have consistently appealed to those readers for whom imperial glory rings false. Grandsen (2004: 94) defines Virgilian melancholy as
a sense of the unrealized, of words not spoken, of things not enacted, of a world in which, perhaps, Aeneas stayed at Carthage, Evander did not lost his son, Turnus was spared, Marcellus survived to succeed Augustus.11
Such wistful musing on the counter-factual conditional - if only! - take sharper shape in Conte (2007: 35), who understands these alternatives to the fated plot as articulating ‘suppressed desires and ideals.’ Individual subjectivities flourish, each offering a glimpse of a (pleasanter?) track not taken as the epic steams off down the imperial highway. To what extent these individual subjectivities, these “further voices” (Lyne 1987), represent opposition to a dominant discourse is still a hot topic, or at least still smoking. The debate over how exactly poetics and politics, language and power intersect certainly hasn’t burnt out yet.
So showing alternative points of view, or sympathetic antagonists, is one form of focalisation that deviates from simple narrative. Another is ecphrasis: the embedded description of a work of art that functions as a microcosm of its host-text and draws attention to its own artifice. The best recent work on this technique is Putnam, Virgil’s epic designs: ecphrasis in the Aeneid (1995). Of particular concern is the creative process involved in a work of art and, as Casali (2007) argues, the (compromised?) integrity of the artist. Prophecy, too, is always delivered by characters whose individual interests must be taken into account; to apply a narratological approach, the speaker’s identity is just as important as what he or she says. ‘The question of authoritative meaning in the Aeneid is acute,’ commented Hardie, in 1998. And politicized: discrepancies in the future/s depicted by Jupiter, Vulcan, and in A6 by Anchises and the Sibyl have been read as illustrating the deceptiveness of Fama (see eg Boyle 1993), and - by analogy - the deceptiveness of epic glamour itself.12 Does the fact that it is Anchises, not Virgil, who fires up Aeneas with famae amore (6.889) give the parade of heroes more or less authority? And when Aeneas spots the great big flaw in the master-plan, the premature death of Augustus’ heir, Anchises hushes it up: ingentem luctum ne quaere tuorum! (6.867). This is evidently one further voice we just don’t talk about.
In narratological terms, then, the Aeneid is a power struggle. Marginalised points of view contend with carefully crafted accounts of Roman destiny. It is vital to determine who has ultimate authority over the text. The speaker? the poet? the emperor? Or, as the next section will suggest, could the question of who is listening be just as important as the question of who is speaking?


5. Vergil, Virgil and “Virgil”

Technically, pedantically, Vergilius should become Vergil, in English. The more common spelling, Virgil, only came into use in the Middle Ages. So calling him Vergil implies a pure, superior relationship with the Roman past, unaffected by the idolatry, ideology or ignorance of intervening eras. As Martindale argues, however, ‘our current interpretations of ancient texts, whether or not we are aware of it, are, in complex ways, constructed by the chain of receptions through with their continued readability has been effected’ (1993a: 7).13 The text we receive now, if we choose to be aware of it, is “Virgil”: the cumulative impact, or imprint, of multiple interpretations, some ostentatiously influential and others more covert.14 During the last few years, reception has emerged as the biggest growth area in Virgilian studies (a trend which is occurring elsewhere in Classics, too). The discipline is developing a new self-consciousness, a desire to clarify how we know what we think we know about the poem Eliot once called - without questioning how it got there - ‘the classic of all Europe’.


The study of Virgil’s afterlife begins in antiquity. Everybody loves Ovid, but the new celebrities on the Roman epic A-list are Lucan and Statius.15 Hardie’s Epic Successors of Virgil (1993) provides probably the best starting point for assessing the Neronian and Flavian poets as simultaneously participating in a tradition and transforming the genre. David Quint’s Epic and Empire (also 1993) takes Virgil and Lucan as paradigms for later European epics dealing with the co-dependence of victory and defeat. The collection of papers in Boyle’s Roman Epic (also, believe it or not, 1993) contextualises the Aeneid among its precursors and subsequent works. Tarrant (1997: 83) links ancient receptions to their modern equivalent by showing how Neronian and Flavian poets ‘seem to have responded with particular intensity to many of the features of the Aeneid singled out by “pessimist” critics.’ Pullman’s 2001 article ‘Statius’ Thebaid and the legacy of Virgil’s Aeneid’ defends Flavian epic against the not altogether unreasonable slur that it isn’t as outrageous as Lucan. There is also plenty of material out there on Lucan and Statius individually, most of which inevitably reads them against the Virgilian paradigm.
Studying A6 in particular, however, brings you up against another major tradition, less fashionable than politics but no less provocative: Dante, and the appropriation of Virgil as a proto-Christian. There hasn’t been a huge amount of recent work in this area, but if you’re interested in pursuing it, check out The Poetry of Allusion: Virgil and Ovid in Dante’s Commedia (eds. Jacoff and Schnapp, 1991). A new edition/translation of the Inferno just came out last year too (Palma & Mazzotta, 2008), which includes a good selection of relevant critical material. As Wells (1992:186) argues, ‘we can scarcely overestimate Vergil’s hold on the imagination of the medieval scholar.’ For the intellectual tradition out of which the Divina Commedia arose, Baswell’s Virgil in Medieval England (1995) gives an excellent account of the various ways that the middle ages read Virgil: copied as pedagogical text, circulated in vernacular romances such as the Roman d’Eneas, and recuperated as philosophical or Christian allegory. A6 provided particularly rich material for scholars seeking a guide to spiritual progress, depicting a harrowing of the soul on the path to enlightenment.16
The best general account of Virgilian transmission is Thomas’ outstanding Virgil and the Augustan Reception (2001). Read this. If you read nothing else on the list, read this. Thomas analyses how the Aeneid has been received and progressively appropriated as a pro-Augustan tract, beginning with Lucan the rebel (who needed an adversary) and Servius the grammarian (who needed a hero). Further contributions to a pro-Augustan Aeneid come - among others - from Dryden and Mussolini. In conjunction with Thomas, however, it may be instructive to have a look at Kallendorf’s 2007 study, The Other Virgil, which identifies a counter-tradition of oppositional or “pessimistic” readings running alongside the official line. Kallendorf concentrates on the early modern period, examining the Aeneid’s dissident influence on texts from the fifteenth-century Italy to eighteenth-century America.
Dryden’s translation inscribed the Aeneid in English literature as a majestic master-text,17 but the Romantic movements that swept Germany and England during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries rejected Virgil’s derivative drivel in favour of splendid, muscular, untamed Homer. It wasn’t until the ruling class of the British empire realised around 1860 that they could promote the Aeneid ‘in the light of authoritarian nationalism’ (Turner, 1993: 316) that Virgil’s reputation began to improve. The Aeneid’s stock continued to rise until, by 1930, it was inflated out of all proportion. Bimillenial celebrations in Mussolini’s Italy turned the poem into what Ziolkowski (1993: 18) calls ‘a national commodity.’ Is should be noted that in most propagandistic appropriations of Virgil’s work the text itself tends to vanish, or at least be reduced to a few quotable sound-bites:18 the Laudes Italiae (Georgics 2.457-540), the Battle of Actium in Aeneid 8, the parade of heroes in Aeneid 6, or simply the popular catchphrase imperium sine fine. Ziolkowski emphasises, however, the kaleidoscopic variety of European responses to Virgil between 1918 and 1945. Somberly, he concludes that the Mantuan acquired once again the role of guide; not, this time, through Dante’s Inferno, but through a different kind of pandemonium, through hell on earth, through the material and spiritual wreckage wrought by World War II. ‘Virgil knows he is the poet of modern imperfection,’ writes Conte (2007: 26). Discuss.
This brings us round in a feedback loop, then, to the furious debate which dominated the second half of the twentieth century over how the Aeneid represents imperial rule. The debate is not confined to academic armchairs, either; as recently as 1981, Michael Putnam made front-page headlines in Rome by informing a public audience that ‘Pio Eneo Non Era Pio!’ [Pius Aeneas wasn’t pius] (Schmidt 2001: 154). But it is crucial now to recognise that this debate has its roots in the fallout from WWII, and that its political resonance is not restricted to Augustan Rome. Both readings, the optimist-imperialist and the pessimist-subversive, can be extrapolated from the text. Scholarship is therefore currently concerned with the utility these readings have variously found among the powerful, the revolutionary, the nostalgic and/or the dispossessed.
If I had to pick three subsequent texts to focus on, I’d recommend Dante’s Inferno, Dryden’s translation of Aeneid 6 and Part 1 of Broch’s The Death of Virgil as these span major eras, genres and European cultures without straying too far from the book’s specific themes and influence. Lucan’s Bellum Civile 6, Eliot’s ‘What is a Classic?’, Auden’s Secondary Epic, Graves’ ‘The Anti-Poet’ and the delicious “Hell’s Kitchen” episode in Blumauer’s 1841 parody19 would come in as close runners-up, though.

Conclusions…

If you rearrange the bibliography by date of publication, you’ll notice that after the annus mirabilis that was 1993 the stream of material on Virgil starts to dry up. (Distressed? Or relieved?) I’d like to finish this survey with a pronouncement made in 2001 by Joseph Farrell that might stir things up a bit:


The period of Vergilian hegemony is over… We have already entered a period during which Vergil is no longer the single most important paradigm in Latin literary studies; when the questions that we most want to answer are not Vergilian ones.20
Similarly, Ziolkowski (1993: 235) contends that ‘we do not live in Virgilian times.’ It is hard now for novelists or poets to approach the Aeneid as a source-text without a degree of parody, irony or at least cynical disillusionment. ‘No, Virgil, no,’ sighed W.H. Auden, back in 1959. ‘Not even the first of the Romans can learn / his Roman history in the future tense…’ Classical scholarship runs in cycles. Until the late nineteenth century, nobody paid any attention to the Aeneid unless it was to express a preference for Homer. The twentieth century wrung the controversy it so passionately desired out of Virgil’s epic, but perhaps Farrell is right, and we could now be moving into a period where other Classical texts - formerly marginal - speak more eloquently to our condition.
Does that mean we should stop reading the Aeneid? I don’t think so. It is an endlessly rich and rewarding text, and has exercised unparalleled influence over the imagination of Western Europe. What it does mean is that we can’t take its presence for granted. Having acknowledged its fragility and contingency, and our own contribution to its status, we are required to keep asking the questions with which this survey commenced: why are we reading it? What is it for? What do we need from Virgil here and now?


Bibliography on Virgilian scholarship
Most items can be sourced at the University of Melbourne (Baillieu) or Monash (Matheson) libraries, except items marked with (*), most of which may be ordered from interstate.
*Adler, Eve (2003). Vergil’s empire: political thought in the Aeneid. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.

*Anderson, William & Quartarone, Lorina (2002). Approaches to teaching Virgil’s Aeneid. New York: MLA.

*Austin, R.G. (1955) Aeneidos Liber Sextus. Oxford: Clarendon.

Baswell, Christopher (1995) Virgil in Medieval England: figuring the Aeneid from the twelfth century to Chaucer. Cambridge: CUP.

Boyle, A.J. (1993) ‘The canonic text: Virgil’s Aeneid’ in Roman Epic. London: Routledge.

___ . (1986) The Chaonian dove: studies in the Eclogues, Georgics and Aeneid of Virgil. Leiden: Brill.



Cairns, Francis (1989). Virgil’s Augustan epic. Cambridge: CUP.

*Clark, R.J. (2001). ‘How Vergil expanded the Underworld in Aeneid 6’ PCPS 47: 103-116



Cockburn, G. (1992). ‘Aeneas and the Gates of Sleep: an etymological approach.’ Phoenix 46: 362-64.

Corse, Taylor (1991). Dryden’s Aeneid: the English Virgil. Newark: University of Delaware.

Casali, Sergio (2006). ‘The making of the shield.’ Greece & Rome 53: 185-204.

Connor, D.E. (2006). ‘The forest and the trees: teaching the Aeneid in high school.’ Classical World 99.2: 170-172.

Conte, G.B. (2007). The poetry of pathos. Oxford: OUP.

*Dominik, William (1996).. ‘Reading Virgil’s Aeneid: the gates of sleep.’ Maia 48: 129-38



Edmunds, Lowell (2005). ‘Critical divergences: new directions in the study and teaching of Roman literature.’ TAPA 135: 1-13.

Farrell, Joseph (2001). ‘The Vergilian century.’ Vergilius 47.

Feeney, Denis (1986). ‘History and revelation in Virgil’s Underworld.’ PCPS 32: 1-24

Feldherr, Andrew (1999). ‘Putting Dido on the map: genre and geography in Virgil’s Underworld.’ Arethusa 32: 85-112

Fowler, D. (2000). ‘Deviant focalisations in Vergil’s Aeneid’ in Roman constructions: readings in postmodern Latin. Oxford: OUP.

Fratantuono, L. (2007). ‘A brief reflection on the Gates of Sleep’. Latomus 66.3: 628-635.

Galinsky, Karl (2003). ‘Clothes for the emperor: recent trends in interpreting Virgil’s Aeneid.’ Arion 10.3: 147-69.

___ . (1996). Augustan culture: an interpretive introduction. Princeton.



Goold, G.P. (1992). ‘The voice of Virgil: the pageant of Rome in Aeneid 6’ in Author and audience in Latin literature. Cambridge: CUP.

Grandsen, K.W. (2004). (2nd edn revised by Stephen Harrison) Virgil: the Aeneid. A student guide. Cambridge: CUP.

Griffin, Jasper (1992). ‘Virgil’ in The Legacy of Rome: a new appraisal. (ed. Richard Jenkyns). Oxford.

Habinek, Thomas & Schiesaro, Alessandro (eds). (1997). The Roman cultural revolution. Cambridge: CUP.

Hammond, P (1999). Dryden and the traces of classical Rome. Oxford: OUP.

Hardie, Philip (1993). The epic successors of Virgil: a study in the dynamics of a tradition. Cambridge: CUP.

___ . (1998). Virgil. Oxford: OUP.

___ . (1986). Cosmos and imperium. Oxford: OUP.

Harrison, Stephen (2007). Generic enrichment in Virgil and Horace. Oxford: OUP.

___ . (1990). Oxford readings in Vergil’s Aeneid. Oxford: OUP.



Horsfall, Nicholas (1995). A companion to the study of Virgil. New York: A.J. Brill.

Jacoff, Rachel & Schnapp, Jeffrey (1991). The Poetry of Allusion: Virgil and Ovid in Dante’s Commedia. Stanford.

Kallendorf, Craig (2007). The other Virgil: “pessimistic” readings of the Aeneid in early modern culture. Oxford: OUP.

Keith, A.M. (2000). Engendering Rome: women in Latin epic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kennedy, (1992)‘Augustan and anti-Augustan: reflections on terms of reference’ in Roman poetry and propaganda in the age of Ausugtus (ed. Anton Powell). London: Bristol Classical.

Kilpatrick, Ross S. ‘The stuff of doors and dreams.’ Vergilius 41 1995 63-70

*Kyriakidis, Stratis (2000). Narrative structure and poetics: the frame of Book 6. Bari: Levante Editori.

*LaPenna, A. (2005). ‘Some problems interpreting the historical details in Book 6 of the Aeneid.’ Maia 55.2: 231-247.

Lyne, R.O.A.M. (1987). Further voices in Vergil’s Aeneid. Oxford: Clarendon.

MacLennan, Keith (2003). Aeneid VI. London: Bristol Classical.

Martindale, Charles (ed) (1997). The Cambridge companion to Virgil. Cambridge: CUP.

___ . Redeeming the text (1993a). Cambridge: CUP.

___ . ‘Descent into hell: reading and ambiguity, or Virgil and the critics.’ Proceedings of the Virgil Society 21.

Molyviati-Toptsis, Urania (1995). ‘Sed falsa ad caelum mittunt insomnia manes.’ AJP 116.4: 639-52.

*Most, Glenn W. & Spence, Sarah (eds) (2004). Re-Presenting Vergil. Pisa: Instituti Editorali e Poligrafici Internazionali.



Nickbakht, M.A. (2006). ‘Closure and continuation: the poetics of Aeneid 6.900-01.’ Philologus 150.1: 95-101.   

O’Hara, James (1990). Death and the optimistic prophecy in Vergil’s Aeneid. Princeton.



Quartarone, Lorina (2006). ‘Teaching the Aeneid through ecofeminism.’ The Classical World 99: 177-81.

Quint, David (1993). Epic and empire: politics and generic form from Virgil to Milton. Princeton.

Palma, Michael & Mazzotta, Giuseppe (2008). Inferno: a new verse translation (backgrounds, contexts, criticism). New York: Norton.

Powell, Anton. ‘The Aeneid and the embarrassments of Augustus’ in Roman poetry and propaganda in the age of Augustus (ed. Anton Powell). London: Bristol Classical.

Putnam, Michael (2003). ‘Two ways of looking at the Aeneid.’ Classical World 96.2: 177-84.

___ . (1998). Virgil’s epic designs: ecphrasis in the Aeneid. New Haven: Yale.



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Smith, R.A. (1993). ‘A lock and a promise: myth and allusion in Aeneas’ farewell to Dido in Aeneid 6.’ Phoenix 57: 305-12.

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___ . (2000b). ‘Ripae ulerioris amore: structure and desire in Aeneid 6.’ Classical Journal 95: 349-61.



Wells, Colin (1992). ‘Aeneas in Purgatory’ in The two worlds of the poet: new perspectives on Virgil (eds. Robert Wilhelm & Howard Jones). Detroit: Wayne State.

White, Peter (1993). Promised verse: poets in the society of Augustan Rome. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard.

Zanker, Paul (1988). The power of images in the age of Augustus (trans. Alan Shapiro). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Zetzel, J.E.G. (1989) ‘Romane memento: justice and judgment in A6’. TAPA 119: 263-84.



Ziolkowski, Theodore (1993). Virgil and the moderns. Princeton.

Other relevant cool stuff

Eliot’s seminal essays ‘What is a classic?’ and “Virgil and the Christian world’ deserve a second glance with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, as does Robert Graves’ scathing ‘The Virgil Cult’ (‘The anti-poet’) in the Virginia Quarterly Review 38 (1962), 29-53.


Hermann Broch’s The death of Virgil is an amazing, delirious semi-novel, semi-meditation on poetic afterlife. If you appreciate To the Lighthouse, anything by D.H. Lawrence and/or the trippier parts of Baudolino, this is for you. If Austen and Atwood are more your style, give it a miss.
Online relief

A6 is on YouTube as Aeneid Book 6 in 60 seconds, which is hilarious but unfortunately cuts off just before the end.



The Aeneid also has an entry in Uncyclopedia: moronic, but fun if you like American stoner humour. Much better is Aeneas’ Facebook page: http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~ecarlson/aeneidonfacebook.jpg . This is comic gold. (It’s not actually on Facebook, though, so you can’t comment. But you’ll be too busy dying of laughter to care.)


1 More detailed studies of Virgil’s treatment in Fascist and post-Fascist Europe may be found in Thomas (2001) and Ziolkowski (1993).

2 See Hardie (1998), 57-63 & 101; Tarrant (1997), 180; Conte (2007), esp. 32 & 151-53.

3 Conte (2007), 152. See also Boyle (1993) and Harrison (2007): 208-14).

4 Effectively demolishing Bakhtin’s definition of epic. There’s nothing monoglot about Virgil.

5 Edmunds (2005); following the cultural theory of (eg) Jameson, Said, Eagleton and Greenblatt, which Galinsky (1996) and Habinek & Schiesaro (1997) have applied to Augustan Rome. ‘Culture,’ as Habinek and Schiesaro argue, ‘is understood as a dynamic process consisting of various intersecting practices and discourses.’

6 This began with Adam Parry’s groundbreaking ‘Two Voices’ article in 1963. Horsfall (1995), however, denies that it had any connection with the swingin’ ‘60s.

7 Compare Solmsen’s more traditional structuralist reading in Harrison (1990).

8 More generally, see Harrison (2007) on generic hybridity as a poetic resource in Horace and Virgil.

9 For a good wicked chuckle, I do recommend West’s ‘The bough and the gate’, if only because it’s so belligerent and merciless towards some of the wackier explanations for the Gate and the Golden Bough.

10 Ziolkowski (1993), 78.

11 See also Goold (1992) on the emotional impact of the Marcellus passage.

12 O’Hara (1990), 6 argues that ‘Virgil links the deceptiveness of prophecies to the potential for deception in poetry, art, Roman religion and even language itself’.

13 See also Martindale (1997), 6-7.

14 This all comes out of Martindale (1993a).

15 I’d like to put Valerius Flaccus up there as well, but that would be disingenuous.

16 Baswell (1995), 92-129.

17 See Thomas (2001) and Hammond (1999). Corse (1991) is pretty much just a formalist analysis of the translation’s poetics.

18 This kind of cut-and-paste job is not restricted to political appropriation: see Baswell (1995: 16-17) on the medieval rearrangement of Virgilian excerpts, for instance through the sortes Virgilianae.

19 Taken from Virgils Aeneis travestiert von A. Blumauer; text and translation of the episode available in Spence (2001: 142-45) and Kallendorf (2007).

20 Farrell (2001), 19.






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