Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Reading Dido: Gender, Textuality and the Medieval 'Aeneid'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Reading Dido: Gender, Textuality and the Medieval 'Aeneid'

Article excerpt

Marilynn Desmond, Reading Dido: Gender, Textuality and the Medieval 'Aeneid' (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, i994). xv + 296 pp.; 25 figures. ISBN o-1866-2246-9, $44.95 (hard covers); ISBN o-8166-2477, $17.95 (p/b).

Marilynn Desmond's reading of the medieval Dido is a troubling one, and it strives to be so. From the beginning, Desmond seeks to trouble - to disturb and interrupt - the power structures and gender hierarchies traditionally associated with the reading of Aeneid IV. Reading the Aeneid as an authorization of patriarchal imperialism, and Virgil's Dido, 'in her colonized and gendered identity', as 'difference writ large' (p. 7), Desmond provides an unsettling account of the politics inherent in medieval readings of what is, unquestionably, the most popular episode in Virgil's 'great book'. This study will assuredly trouble its modern readers. While many will be profitably agitated by the argument's disruptive qualities, others will be vexed by a reading so thoroughly saturated in the imperatives of twentieth-century theoretical discourse. But, to give Desmond her due, she does outline her parameters from the very start, and she caters, explicitly, to 'the modern reader interested in creating or occupying subject positions compatible with feminist or postcolonial theory' (P 13)

Reading Dido surveys the vernacular reception of Aeneid IV from the twelfthcentury Roman d'neas (c. 1156) through to Gavin Douglas's early sixteenthcentury Eneados (1513), stopping in between at the Didos read by Chretien in Erec et Enide, by the anonymous author or the Histoire ancienne, by Chaucer in The Home of Fame and The Legend of Good Women and by Caxton in his Eneydos. …

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