The Aeneid

Aeneas, and the Reinvention of the Hero

As a modern reader approaching the epics, one inevitably brings certain expectations and standards formed throughout the course of our experiences; one's literary appetite is accustomed to a certain kind of satisfaction, and one of the most valuable rewards in reading these ancient works is having to examine and adapt one's demands in order to come to a greater understanding of the history and function of literature.

Roland Barthes writes: "... the goal of literary work... is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text..."(S/Z, p. 4). As an entry into this more than passive relationship with literature, a reader must be able to identify with an element of humanity within a work, must be able to interact with a 'hero' he or she can recognize as utterly human. Because of this, one is tempted to place the epic outside of the classification of 'literature' that Barthes outlines; Homeric heroes are such in the classical definition of the word--god-like and superhuman, they are to be looked up to rather than empathized with or understood. Virgil, however, is strikingly different in this respect; while he obviously inscribed himself within the epic tradition, he also marked...

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