This talk will focus on how the beginning of the Aeneid was read in the Renaissance. The emphasis will not be on Virgilian influence on the great writers of the period, but on how the poem was read at school, to provide a part of the common cultural foundation of the early modern period. Examination of the early printed editions read by Renaissance readers and the marginal annotations they left in their books shows that the Aeneid was generally read in a three-step process. First, lines that are memorable for their moral content or their stylistic polish would be underlined and a key word to identify the line would be written in the margin of the book. Next, the chosen passages would be transferred to a commonplace book, where the key words became the headings and the relevant lines would be written out below. Finally the commonplace book would serve as a source of ready-made phrases to be quoted in the reader’s own compositions. Reading in this way shatters the Virgilian text into moral and stylistic shards, reducing the emphasis on the ‘big picture’ but offering instead an Aeneid that could easily permeate every area of Renaissance culture. While most of the talk will open up a different way of approaching Virgilian beginnings, it will also explore how integrating the physical form in which a classical text is consumed affects the interpretation of that text, which suggests a new model for how classical reception might be done.
Craig Kallendorf is Professor of Classics and English at Texas A&M University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and is the author or editor of more than twenty books and some 140 articles, book chapters, and reference work entries. Many of his publications focus on Virgil, including In Praise of Aeneas: Virgil and Epideictic Rhetoric in the Early Italian Renaissance (Hanover, NH, 1989); Virgil and the Myth of Venice: Books and Readers in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford, 1999); The Other Virgil: Pessimistic Readings of the Aeneid in Early Modern Culture (Oxford, 2007); and The Protean Virgil: Material Form and the Reception of the Classics (forthcoming from Oxford in 2015). A longstanding interest in the early printed editions of Virgil has led to A Catalogue of the Junius Spencer Morgan Collection of Virgil in the Princeton University Library (New Castle, Del., 2009) and A Bibliography of the Early Printed Editions of Virgil, 1469-1850 (New Castle, Del., 2012). Professor Kallendorf is the immediate past president of The Vergilian Society and president of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies.