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The Other Virgil: "Pessimistic" Readings of the "Aeneid" in Early Modern Culture (review)

The Other Virgil: "Pessimistic" Readings of the "Aeneid" in Early Modern Culture (review) Narcissus's radical solipsism bequeaths to Western languages an eponymous term for destructive self-absorption. As negative exempla, classical myths may appear to stand on the same footing as their scriptural counterparts. Fyler certainly thinks they do, as he notes that the "insertions of classical myth enrich the context of [scripture]" (35). And that is true up to a point. But for the Middle Ages, there was an overwhelming reason why classical myth, no matter how apposite its examples might be, could never be equated with their scriptural counterparts. Whatever their lapses of decorum or common sense, Narcissus, Actaeon, Ephialtes, Antaeus, and other mythic figures are not reenacting original sin: that is, they lack metaphysical significance. That is not true in the case of Adam, Cain, and their successors whose actions exemplify Christian doctrine. For medieval thinkers, their actions had a dual meaning and value. They had a literal and linear value, but each episode in the horizontal narrative chain also connected vertically to an overarching ideology that gave meaning to the whole. From a medieval perspective, it is their willful blindness that renders characters like Cain evil. That is not the case for their classical counterparts who are often http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Studies Penn State University Press

The Other Virgil: "Pessimistic" Readings of the "Aeneid" in Early Modern Culture (review)

Comparative Literature Studies , Volume 47 (1) – Mar 31, 2010

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Penn State University Press
ISSN
1528-4212
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Abstract

Narcissus's radical solipsism bequeaths to Western languages an eponymous term for destructive self-absorption. As negative exempla, classical myths may appear to stand on the same footing as their scriptural counterparts. Fyler certainly thinks they do, as he notes that the "insertions of classical myth enrich the context of [scripture]" (35). And that is true up to a point. But for the Middle Ages, there was an overwhelming reason why classical myth, no matter how apposite its examples might be, could never be equated with their scriptural counterparts. Whatever their lapses of decorum or common sense, Narcissus, Actaeon, Ephialtes, Antaeus, and other mythic figures are not reenacting original sin: that is, they lack metaphysical significance. That is not true in the case of Adam, Cain, and their successors whose actions exemplify Christian doctrine. For medieval thinkers, their actions had a dual meaning and value. They had a literal and linear value, but each episode in the horizontal narrative chain also connected vertically to an overarching ideology that gave meaning to the whole. From a medieval perspective, it is their willful blindness that renders characters like Cain evil. That is not the case for their classical counterparts who are often

Journal

Comparative Literature StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: Mar 31, 2010

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