Intersectional Femininity in Vergil's Aeneid: Juno to Barce

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This paper explores the feminine in the Aeneid, with particular attention to the patterns, often dissonant, arising from the interaction of gender with social class, the latter broadly conceived. Many of the most influential studies of the feminine in the epic have focused considerable attention on those at the top of the tree, especially the divine females whose status as women is assumed in ways that perhaps gloss over the differential structures of power in the representation of women in the poem. In so doing, such studies partake in a multifaceted problem in feminist criticism (and indeed activism): How to focus on the female without reification of femininity into a single form, while nonetheless enabling both solidarity between women of different status, and critical awareness of the injustices suffered by certain groups of women and not others (sometimes at the hands of other individual women or groups of women). I shall attempt to redress the balance by drawing out the specificity of different women’s characters and lives, including especially those at the bottom of the social spectrum in the hierarchical and aristocratic world of epic. This will involve deliberately seeking out some of those at the bottom of the heap, including the nurses and slaves, but also Anna soror, and even the minor goddesses Juturna and Deiopea. I aim to read for difference, for individuality, but in such a way as also to build up a picture of a female world that both engages in and opposes the masculine world of epic and politics. Despite my title, I shall pay only limited attention to major players in the poem, only insofar as they serve to shed light on the minor characters who are my main focus. As a result, there is almost nothing of Dido in this article, or even Lavinia and Camilla.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-115
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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