Monday 5th December, 4pm, Westmere Seminar Room
*Please note the change of venue*
Cécile Decaix (University of Montpellier III- Paul Valéry)
From the margin to the centre: the representation of Dido in Caxton’s Eneydos (1490)
In 1490, William Caxton, an English printer, translator and merchant, published Eneydos, a translation into English of a 1483 anonymous French text entitled Le Livre des Eneydes, compillé par Virgille, lequel a esté translaté de latin en françois. Although the title of the book implies that it is a direct translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Le Livre des Eneides and the Eneydos can be described as a patchwork of various extracts from works by Virgil or Boccaccio, or passages drawn from a French chronicle called L’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (c. 1210). The representation of the character of Dido best symbolizes the heterogeneous nature of the text.
Dido is a marginal character in the Aeneid; she only represents an episode in Aeneas’s epic journey. But in the Eneydos, she becomes a central character. Two contradictory versions of her life are juxtaposed in the Eneydos: first, the reader is given to read a translation of the account of Dido’s life as in Boccacio’s De Casibus virorum illustrium, in which Aeneas plays no part in the death of the Queen of Carthage. The version is directly followed by a translation of the Virgilian account of Dido’s story drawn from the Aeneid, according to which Dido kills herself out of folly and despair. Dido’s portrayal in the Eneydos is also marked by contradictions: she is both depicted as a libidinous figure and as a heroic ruler, who possesses both masculine and feminine attributes. This complex characterization and the tensions which emerge from it as well as the juxtaposition of the two versions influence and transform the early modern reader’s perception of the character. In the context of the European Querelle des Femmes and at the dawn of the book edition, we shall explore the heterogeneous representation of Dido and how she also becomes a central figure in Caxton’s perception of edition.
This presentation will be followed by the EMREM Christmas festivities!