Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Virgil's Aeneid: Last Thoughts

I'm still thinking about the Aeneid.

The ending of the book has left my mind reeling.  As I looked into interpretations of the final scene, I found that almost all traditional literary critics seem to emphasize the piety of Aeneas (meaning his sense of responsibility to fate and his homeland, rather than religious piety) rather than his passion, even at the end of the book.  It is Turnus that is portrayed as the out-of-control person.

I was not completely convinced.

1. Perhaps the killing of Turnus is Virgil's articulation that responsibility, not emotional self-control, is more important.  When one's duty conflicts with passion (as in the case with Dido), passion is wrong.  When duty dovetails with one's passions, there is nothing wrong with it.  That is, is this really a story about passion versus stoicism--or just a story about living up to your fated role, no matter what (in this case, of founding the Roman Empire)?

2. What does Aeneas do next?  Does he regret killing Turnus in anger?  And does he return the body to Turnus's family as the young man requests, allowing him to have an honorable death?  If Virgil is assuming that Aeneas thought what he did was both "pious" (killing Turnus) and compassionate (sending the body back), does that change how we feel?

3. Perhaps the reason this book has remained so relevant is because there is room for the reader to interpret in a variety of ways.  The text makes room for interpretations which Virgil might never have considered.

4. Or perhaps Virgil intended to teach us that people are complex and that what is "right" (or even what is desired) is not always easy to ascertain.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Solstice

Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light.
--Dylan Thomas

solstice bread
Solstice Bread, made by my partner David and our son
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