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Virgil’s Aeneid from the Aztecs to the Dark Virgin: Latin Poetry and Ethnohistory in Colonial Mexico
March 31, 2009 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Classical Literature, Warwick University
Virgil’s epic on the fall of Troy and foundation of Rome came to Mexico in the wake of the Spanish conquest. The poem had a role in the earliest accounts of Aztec traditions compiled by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún and his native collaborators, and in the transmission of classical learning that had begun to develop in New Spain in the 1520s. From the mid-1600s, the reading and literary imitation of Virgil in Latin inspired poetic panegyrics of the ‘Dark Virgin’, the Lady of Guadalupe, who supposedly appeared to a native Mexican in 1531. This lecture seeks to show how Virgil (and some other classical authors) informed constructions of creole identity and indigenous history during the colonial period, and to highlight the richness and complexity of Latin culture in Mexico.
Andrew Laird is Professor in Classical Literature at Warwick University in the United Kingdom. He currently holds a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship and a Méndez Plancarte visiting professorship (2009-10) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His publications include Powers of Expression, Expressions of Power (Oxford 1999), Ancient Literary Criticism (Oxford 2006) and a forthcoming volume on Italy and the classical tradition. As a Solmsen Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities in UW-Madison during 2003-4, he worked on a study of an 18th century Hispano-Latin poet from Guatemala: The Epic of America: An Introduction to Rafael Landívar and the Rusticatio Mexicana (London 2006).