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Reproducing RomeMotherhood in Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, and Statius$
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Mairéad McAuley

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199659364

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659364.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 31 July 2021

Maternal Impressions

Maternal Impressions

Reading Motherhood in Virgil’s Aeneid and Georgics

(p.55) 2 Maternal Impressions
Reproducing Rome

Mairéad McAuley

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how mothers are marginalized in Virgil’s epic of national origins but also call attention to their own marginalized status as victims, lamenters, and dissenters, not entirely subsumed by the patrilineal epic programme. In contrast to the Aeneid, the Aristaeus–Cyrene episode in Georgics 4 depicts a mother–son dynamic that is educative, socializing, and life-giving, rather than isolating, uncivilized, and redolent of the hero’s death. This dual Virgilian vision of maternity, as either troublesome or life-giving to individual and society, represents two ways of implicating motherhood in the construction of male subjectivity. This chapter situates Virgil’s ambiguous, occasionally ‘terrifying’ mothers within wider critical discourses, especially psychoanalytic articulations of the mother as devouring and threatening to the masculine self. Yet it also shows that Virgil can be read as a poet ‘for’ mothers, as readers and educators of their sons.

Keywords:   Virgil, Aeneid, Georgics, mothers, epic, Venus, Cyrene, Aristaeus, polyphony, ambivalence

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