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Virgil’s Venus-virgo in Christian Early Modern Epic

Viola Starnone

Independent Scholar

The Virgilian episode of Venus appearing to Aeneas in the Carthaginian woods under the guise of a virgin huntress (Verg. Aen. 1.314-417) has attracted a wide range of responses through the centuries, proving itself as a highly disturbing text for readers of all times. From the first interpretations, the scene has always been either censured or adjusted in order to be mastered and to look more conventional. The Christian epic of the early modern era, when reusing the Virgilian episode, has usually explored and emphasized the theme of confrontation between earthly and heavenly world. The paper will take into account understudied reuses of the scene by e.g. Jacopo Sannazzaro (De partu Virginis), Marco Gerolamo Vida (Christias), Lucrezia Marinelli (La vita di Maria Vergine imperatrice delluniverso). In these adaptations, Venus in disguise is used to represent e.g. angelic figures, located half-way between human and divine, or the figure of Jesus, human and divine at the same time. As I shall try to demonstrate, most of the disquieting elements of the Virgilian scene – especially its subterranean eroticism – are not really suppressed, as it may seem at first, but they are channeled into the new texts, often assuming unexpected forms.

Session/Panel Title

Classical and Early Modern Epic: Comparative Approahces and New Perspectives

Session/Paper Number

10.4

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