Aeneas in the New World: Reshaping the Interpretive Motif in Barlow's Columbiad

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2010
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Mulligan, Bret
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Haverford College. Department of Classics
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Thesis
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eng
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Open Access
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Abstract
Barlow's Columbiad evokes Virgil's Aeneid by using the motifs of revelation and interpretation to explore the role of the past in informing the present. Virgil creates an opposition between Aeneas, who receives prophecies and signs but is prevented from interpreting them by his shock and fear, and his father Anchises, who interprets the prophecies and guides the Trojans. Aeneas learns to use his father's interpretive ritual but must utilize this technique to craft forward-looking interpretations and lead his people into the unknown, in order to fulfill his destiny. This combination of traditional ritual with a progressive outlook reflects symbolically the new political circumstances of Virgil's Rome. In the Columbiad, Columbus views scenes from early American history, and presents Hesper with the problems and criticisms he sees in the nation's development, relying on Hesper to explain them. Through their intermittent dialogue, the two advocate cyclical and linear models of historical development, respectively. Hesper's interpretation of mankind's progressive improvement prevails, reflecting Barlow's vision of post-revolutionary America as distinct from and improving upon its Old World predecessors. The two epics' common motif reveals the complexity of Columbus' character and reinforces Barlow's democratic message.
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Barlow, Joel, 1754-1812 -- Criticism and interpretation
Virgil. Aeneis
Columbus, Christopher
Barlow, Joel, 1754-1812. Columbiad
Virgil -- Criticism and interpretation
America -- Discovery and exploration
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