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...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 945 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7609 literature essays, 2155 sample college application essays, 318 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in