Virgil’s Feminist Counterforce: Juno’s Furor as Matter of Imperium's Unjust Forms

Journal of Aesthetic Education (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In this article, I offer a new philosophical interpretation of Virgil’s Aeneid, dually centered on the queens of Olympus and Carthage. More specifically, I show how the philosopher-poet Virgil deploys Dido’s Junonian furor as the Aristotelian matter of the unjust Roman imperium, the feminist counterforce to the patriarchal force disguised as peaceful order. The first section explores Virgil’s political and biographical background for the raw materials for a feminist, anti-imperial political philosophy. The second section, following Marilynn Desmond, situates the continuing misogynist condemnation of Virgil’s two goddess-queens in the context of their honored centrality in Roman and Carthaginian culture. The third section reinterprets Virgil’s goddess-queens as agents of furor as (apparently mad) feminist counterforce to the (actually mad) unjust force of the Roman empire and its agents Jupiter and Aeneas. The fourth section translates these poetic philosophical interpretations into prose, arguing that Dido’s Junonian furor is the Aristotelian matter constituting the unjust forms of Roman imperium. And the conclusion applies the latter analysis to Hardt and Negri’s Empire, suggesting Dido as a model for the “multitude” in the fight against the imperial injustice of today’s globalized empire.

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Joshua M. Hall
University of Alabama, Birmingham

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