The Aeneid and Battlestar Galactica: Exploring Intertext

Vergil discussing Battlestar Galactica

This article begins with a basic assumption: authorial intention is unimportant in revealing the meaning of a text. If for example the writer of Die Hard were to say he meant to write a movie about “sharing is caring,” that wouldn’t change Die Hard into a movie about sharing. But if authorial intention doesn’t matter, then does the original audience? Often, we privilege that audience because they were the people for whom a work was written, but if we don’t talk about the author, how can we say the work was written for anyone? That is, if authorial intention is irrelevant, so is the intended audience.

As a waring, the ideas expressed in this article are anything but conventional. In fact, what conclusions are reached here, no one should believe. Rather, this article is a thought experiment: What happens when we really discount the time in which a work was written? And beyond that: Where does a work get its meaning?

Reversing the Intertext

Intertext is the dialog between two works of literature to give meaning. A modern romantic comedy may reference Romeo and Juliet and so draw meaning from the Shakespearean classic. Or a new episode of Doctor Who may reference an old one. Or, to make an example of two well known films, the end of Shrek may (and does) reference Beauty and the Beast.

By having a similar curse and transformation scene, but a dissimilar result, Shrek deliberately attacks Disney for teaching people they need to be beautiful to be happy. The entirety of Beauty and the Beast is about loving someone for their inner beauty, but at the end of the movie, the Beast still becomes a handsome prince. It’s like Disney can’t imagine Belle happily marrying him when he’s a monster. Shrek says that if you truly love someone, they don’t need to be pretty for the movie to have a happy ending. One might extrapolate that Shrek further calls out society for not adequately teaching this lesson to children – a meaning that would be less obvious without the use of intertext.

But no one would say Beauty and the Beast has a dissimilar result to Shrek because it wants to teach people to… be good looking? No one would say Beauty and the Beast referenced Shrek. The reason is that Beauty and the Beast came first. But if one accepts that authorial intention is irrelevant, and if one therefore accepts that the intended context is irrelevant, and if one therefore accepts that the time in which a work was written is irrelevant, then who’s to say in an intertextual analysis which work references which? Or even to avoid the term “reference” but speak more broadly, can a later work change the meaning of an earlier work?

Yes. Actually, there is precedent that a later work can change the meaning of its predecessor. For instance, not even George Lucas knew that Darth Vader would be Luke’s father when the first Star Wars was being made, but the second Star Wars changed the interpretation of a lot of the earlier dialog about Luke’s (formerly literally dead) father. Similarly in Doctor Who, although the Doctor was probably originally understood to be telling the truth in “Hand of Fear” (by Bob Baker and Dave Martin), the later “Let’s Kill Hitler” (by Stephen Moffat) said he was lying the whole time. These, however, are within a single series and so blur the line between intertext and intratext (even when they may have different authors). No one is amazed when Chapter 3 of a novel causes them to rethink Chapter 1. More relevant is that the early Christians reinterpreted Vergil’s Eclogue 4 to be about Jesus. Here, they took something known to be outside the Eclogues and brought it into their analysis. One might even say Eclogue 4 referenced the stories about Jesus. (It should be noted, this way of reading Eclogue 4 is no longer acceptable among scholars.)

The implications of reverse-intertext are fascinating. Essentially, a work with one stable meaning can flip to have a different meaning altogether if a significant intertext is established. What “significant intertext” means exactly is anyone’s guess, but since this article is an experiment in literary analysis, please allow if only for the sake of argument that the works herein discussed are engaged in significant intertext.

Optimism vs. Pessimism: A Brief History of the Debate

Optimism and pessimism in the context of Classical studies (studies in Greek and Roman – in this case, Roman – literature and culture) isn’t exactly a half-full, half-empty kind of debate. It’s sort of more broadly been applied to mean pro-Augustan vs. anti-Augustan (for or against the emperor Augustus), but that’s not exactly right either, as a pessimist can believe the Aeneid (the work this article will discuss) is largely Augustan propaganda but maybe has more complicated undertones. It’s confusing.

For the sake of this article, suffice it to say an optimist believes Aeneas was totally morally right to kill Turnus (that will be explained in a second) and did it in good conscience, but a pessimist is someone who believes he was wrong – maybe he was wrong to kill Turnus, or maybe he just did the right thing for the wrong reason(s).

So what does that mean? Who’s Turnus? Who’s Aeneas for that matter? And what’s the Aeneid? Don’t worry! This won’t take long.

The Aeneid is the epic poem of Rome and was written during the time of Augustus by the poet Vergil. Think of it like Rome’s Iliad or Odyssey. Actually, think of it as Rome’s Iliad and Odyssey, but in reverse order. Aeneas (the hero and namesake of the Aeneid) is actually at Troy when it falls, but he escapes with some Trojans and leads them to search for a new home (the Odyssey part). Then they find their new home and try to settle there. Unfortunately, there’s a guy named Turnus, who is a jealous bully and who is angry because Aeneas is going to marry his crush, and he decides to have a war against the Trojans to try to win her back (the Iliad part) and Aeneas wins. Also, there’s a bit in the middle about Aeneas hooking up with the Carthaginian queen Dido and she’s crazy in-love with him. Her love throws off her ability to govern, and she ultimately kills herself when Aeneas leaves. In addition, a descendant of Aeneas will be the famous Romulus, which might explain to some people why this poem is important. Of course, Aeneas is important, but even those who haven’t heard of Aeneas usually know Romulus (even though he’s not really in the poem). Anyway, Aeneas winning and beating Turnus is the part that becomes confusing.

Turnus (bottom) begs for mercy

The problem is that Turnus is a whiny baby. So when he and Aeneas do this one-on-one duel to try to resolve the war, and when it’s obvious he’ll lose, he stirs up war again. And when they do the duel (same stakes) a second time, and when Aeneas could kill Turnus and end the war, Turnus begs for mercy. “Think of my father,” he says in a presumably really whiny voice. And Aeneas is thinking about it. But then he sees on Turnus this belt – this belt which Turnus took from the dead body of Aeneas’ friend Pallas. And Aeneas says, “This is for Pallas!” and slays Turnus.

So is Turnus still a danger? Have his crimes (and there are more crimes than just killing Pallas – if killing Pallas is even a crime) condemned him to this death? Is this relevant, or is rage the only thing on Aeneas’ mind? Is his rage the all-consuming, opinion-warping kind of rage or is it simply standard war rage? These sorts of questions fuel the debate, but the meaning of the original text is somewhat irrelevant to this article.

I mean, yes, ultimately this article is supposed to show how this experimental method of interpreting texts out of context can change a text’s meaning, and to do that it would be helpful to have a base meaning that can be changed. But the optimism vs. pessimism debate is complicated and it’s far easier to examine how two different intertextual readings with two different texts impose two different meanings on the Aeneid.

The first is historical: Vegio’s Supplementum – written in the 1400’s (long after the original poem) and printed for some time in copies of the Aeneid – adds another scene to the end of the work. In this scene, Aeneas gets the chance to make a speech justifying his actions, and so the Supplementum reimagines the end of the Aeneid to be definitively optimist. However, since this supplement poses itself as part of the Aeneid, it is closer to the Star Wars and Doctor Who examples listed above. It’s not canonically intratext, but if one reads it the way it asks to be read, it is close to intratext. Nevertheless, there is a basis for interpreting the Aeneid as an Optimist and there is also a basis for later texts changing the meaning of the Aeneid. Now forget the Supplementum – or at least think of it a separate and individual sequel for the next argument.

Battlestar Galactica and the Aeneid

These two works, for our intents and purposes, are engaged in a “significant intertext.” Although I am inclined to believe that many of the specific parallels pointed out by some commentators are silly and contrived, there is an overall similarity. Certainly, both stories are about a journey by an exiled people to a new home. The Captains (Aeneas and Adama) are required to make sacrifices, the crews are at times restless, and the dangers are ever-present, but they follow fate as their guide. Further, when they reach their intended destination, they need to make peace (with the Latins/Cylons). In these remarks, this article indebted (in part) to the analysis of other commentators.

The usual route would be to read Battlestar Galactica as a commentary on the text of the Aeneid. This article intends the opposite. The Aeneid, in this argument, makes references to Battlestar Galactica, but to what end? And with this in mind, one can say the Aeneid has changed meanings. There was a pre-Battlestar Aeneid and a post-Battlestar Aeneid, and the latter may be radically different from the former.

(This article contains spoilers about Battlestar Galactica and specifically the last episode of that series.)

One of the key differences between Battlestar Galactica and the Aeneid is the view of emotions. In the Aeneid, emotions are seen as potentially dangerous. Dido and Turnus are both characters who are governed by passion more than reason, and Dido’s passion causes her to rule badly and kill herself, while Turnus’ leads him into a hopeless war. Similarly, Juno, because of her anger, fights fate. Meanwhile, Aeneas is the opposite – not letting his desire to be with Dido trump his duty to his people. Aeneas dutifully accepts his fate and progresses toward his destiny.

One doesn’t have to look far in Battlestar Galactica to see a difference. The good Cylons constantly try to defend themselves as having real feelings, and in the first season, Cylon Sharon is redeemed in the eyes of audience when she rebels against the other Cylons to save the man she loves. Shortly before Sharon’s decision, a Cylon says about her, “She acts like one of of them. Thinks like them” (“Flesh and Bone”). Or consider “The Captain’s Head,” in which Dr. Baltar argues (though he doesn’t believe) that the humans are different from the Cylons in that the Cylons have no freedom because they operate like machines. In Lee’s words from the final episode, “If there’s one thing that we should have learned, it’s that – you know – our brains have always outraced our hearts, our science charges ahead, our souls lag behind.”

There are reasons for these differences that are cultural. Seneca contrasts human reason to the illogic of animals (see De Clementia 1.25.1, for example), and the way Aeneas often keeps his cool could be seen as similarly Stoic. On the other hand, modern sci-fis aren’t always so concerned about separating us from animals as they are about separating us from computers. However, in a typical intertextual reading, someone might argue that Battlestar Galactica is commenting on the Aeneid’s lack of freedom and over-restraint. Perhaps, for example, the forbidden Sharon-Helo romance has something to say about the similarly forbidden Aeneas-Dido relationship. (That is not to say Sharon is Dido.)

This analysis will look at the last scene of the Aeneid as something poignant with emotions. Aeneas in a fit of furor (anger) kills his enemy when he’s reminded of Pallas’ death. First off, if one reads the Aeneid as primarily a condemnation of the emotions in Battlestar Galactica, rather than primarily a work about the virtues of pietas (roughly translated “piety”) as one might read it without the intertext, the final scene with Turnus has a different focus. The word furor is so much more vital. Further, this scene seems remarkably similar to the first scene of the final episode (Part 3, not Part 1) of Battlestar Galactica. The Chief, seeing how his friend was killed, in a fit of rage kills Tory. Far from being the right course of action, this hasty murder nearly ruins the treaty. However, the show goes on and ends on a note of renewal and forgiveness.

The Chief strangles a Cylon
The Chief strangles a Tory

By ending with the death of Turnus, the Aeneid shows the consequence of letting your heart outrace your brain (to flip Lee’s words). It highlights what is already present in Battlestar Galactica – what emotions really do. Emotions do not allow for renewal; they cause conflict. The Aeneid ends starkly to show where the morals of Battlestar Galactic really lead.

Reading the Aeneid ahistorically as a commentary on Battlestar Galactica can therefore cause it to flip on what is one of the most hotly contested issues in literary analysis. If a work exists completely devoid of authorial intent or intended audience, then it’s meaning can actually change over time. That is, we are reading a post-Battlestar Aeneid, but the preBattlestar Aeneid would say something entirely different.

Obviously we do this on a small scale everyday. We do it inevitably and we will never stop. Our lives will always inform how we view texts. But for some reason, no one takes this idea to the extreme. By no means should we – the absurdity of this analysis being a primary reason not to – but why don’t we? Certainly there are obvious objections to “significant intertext,” but this article has shown that there is precedent to retroactively changing a work’s meaning on account of some newer text (even if this process is not taken seriously today outside of television shows), and some of the logic that leads to its absurd conclusions does hold true. Can we discount authorial intention without discounting intended audience? If we can’t, and if we don’t want to discount intended audience, then what do we believe about meaning? If not from the author but not without the author, where does a work get its meaning?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Morales

    It’s likely that modern TV writers are “re-discovering” ancient storytelling ideas in modern contexts.

  2. In my opinion, it’s to narrow-minded to compare BSG only to the Aeneid, there’s a whole lot of other stuff, namely the Iliad and the Odyssee, but also other Greek mythological tropes that have to be taken into account as well as the whole Erich-van-Däniken-related kind of reception of the Ancient World.

  3. The inconsistent use of Greek names/gods in the original Battlestar may have been a hint of the story’s Greco-Roman origins, or it may have been a quick & dirty way to follow the tradition of earlier space operas.

    • Burke

      Also, I feel like the use of Greek gods might have relevance to an interpretation dealing with the spread of Christianity, since the Cylons worship a monotheistic Juedeo-Christian God. I haven’t exactly figured that one out yet.
      But I certainly feel that the Greek god names can also help form a link between Classic works and Battlestar. Whatever the writers meant by the Greek gods, there are certainly a lot of things the Greek gods do for the story.

  4. Lynne Richardson

    Battlestar Galactica and the Aeneid share a superficially similar plot structure.

    • Burke

      Agreed, but don’t you think that’s of some interest when the morals come out entirely different? I mean, two works with similar plot lines and entirely different conclusions – I think that’s grounds for an intertextual analysis. At the very least, it might tell us something about Roman culture in comparison to ours. Unfortunately, I glossed over some of these ideas because I was more interested in reversing the order of intertext, but I still feel there would be sufficient grounds to read the Aeneid as inspiration for BSG (and not just the other way around).

    • The complications arise when this thin connection becomes a rigid template forcing every detail to conform to the interpretation.

  5. Herbert

    Literary/cinematic allegory IMO is fairly obvious when its there, and doesn’t need an inscrutable theory to explain it.

  6. It sounds like the parallels might be obvious. I’m surprised that there seems to be so much ‘surprise’ about this.

  7. PiedadWoodward

    Interesting post. I hadn’t made the connection, but with the emphasis on greco-roman mythology, I’d be surprised if the writers hadn’t.

  8. Helen Parshall

    Interesting article, i had never made the connection between the two before now.

  9. This is a bold analysis and one that does what good criticism and theory ought to do: provoke thought. I was delighted, as something of a fanatic for the Aeneid (it’s my 5th year using the text in teaching) and Battlestar (three marathon sessions from start-to-finish + Caprica in the same amount of time). Anyone with a slight knowledge of both of these topics can easily see the similarities between the two, and you do a nice job stylistically of setting up the basis of your analysis while keeping this distinct from the lazy compare-contrast it could easily have turned into.

    You do a nice job of remaining wary of some serious and (IMHO) dangerous territory being trekked in advancing an inter-textual readings that assume without much qualification claims about the impact of authorial intent and the nature of meaning and textuality while advancing a positive claim. I want to try to sketch some secondary sources that might be useful to consider in relationship to this question, as well as point to some evidence from within (a translation of) the primary source.

    Is it the case that the “meaning” of the historically precedent text (here, Text1) is changing from the interpolation of data/information derived from the historically antecedent text (Text2)? It seems to me that what’s changing is fundamentally the interpretation that a particular audience member (or collection of audience members) have about Text1 on the basis of new working information from Text2. It doesn’t seem to me a far stretch at all to simply say that interpretations are different things from meanings — although the former seems to have the latter, and it also seems to be in an intentional relationship to meanings, as well. E.g., I have an interpretation about the Aeneid’s meaning, and my verbal (oral or written) interpretation has a meaning itself.

    As Wimsatt & Beardsley allude by their own inclusion of the quotation from Socrates as he appears in Plato’s “Apology,” these problems were raised much earlier by Plato in his dialogue, “Ion,” which seems to provide some precedent for the views expressed in Republic, Laws, Phaedrus, and Letter #7, concerning the “divinity” of poets and the exclusion or censorship of writers and artists. But not that they do attribute this quotation to “Plato’s Socrates.” The possessive here appears critical to note, insofar as it assumes that there is an author with a particular sort of Socrates that he wants to manifest in and through the particular words of the dialog.

    Much of this discussion of the meaning and intention might profit from reference to Walter J. Ong’s ORALITY AND LITERACY, which draws a distinction between the sorts of meaning and the objects of meaning we encounter as speakers and those we encounter as readers. Is there something about writing or literacy — about textuality itself — that differs substantively from the oral or nonverbal modes of communication, in terms of what constitutes meaning?

    Which is not to say that authorial intent is not a major question for anyone approaching the Aeneid: As you note, the debate about whether and to what extent Virgil wants to endorse the Roman empire under Augustan — and to what extent his selection of this material — is still open.

    But, as David Silverman notes on his course page for the HUM110 class at Reed College (, the tradition widely holds that Virgil wanted his work burned because it was incomplete, and it was by dint of Augustan’s approval and authority that the book wound up making its way into the public sphere. This only complicates matters, for how can we be reading Virgil’s Aeneid or asking what Virgil meant by it if one of his last living acts was to request that no one read it? It seems as though the very act of printing the Aeneid, let alone reading it is a direct transgression of the author’s intentions.

    Given that you state this assumption or premise at the beginning of your argument, it’s vital to recognize that the debate about the importance or role of authorial intention in reading is perhaps even more controversial than that about whether Virgil intended to support or undermine Augustan rule.

    It seems to me that much more argumentation is needed to support the claim that “authorial intention is unimportant in revealing the meaning of a text,” if such an assumption is necessary for the whole analysis that follows. It certainly seems fit to say, as you do, that hypothetical examples of authors saying that they meant to write about such-and-such when they made a particular text. But to what extent have authorial descriptions of their intent ever deviated so thoroughly from the general interpretation of the text in question? To set up the problem of authorial intention initially seems to me a straw man, at best. At its worst, it might be characterized as a Trojan horse.

    Consider the extent to which Virgil himself deals explicitly with questions of veracity and duplicity in rhetorical situations that seem to parallel textual interpretation via the characters of Laocoon and Sinon in book 2. These figures are studies in 1.) the failure of true belief to persuade a factionalized public through insufficient rhetorical skill; and 2.) the success of deceitful false-report to effectively rely on pathos and ethos to turn an audience to his favor. Laocoon might know the “intent” of the Argive horse accurately, but he fails to persuade his audience to take up his policy of burning it.

    On the other hand, Sinon offers a version of the Greek’s intentions in constructing the horse that obfuscates its true purpose, and it is only by dint of this obfuscation that the Trojan populace takes Laocoon’s subsequent death as a fulfillment of prophecy that they ought to bring the horse into their walls. And their city burns, tragically.

    Thus, between these two alternatives, it seems that there is an actual intent: that the horse was intended to hide the Greeks, enter the city, and provide for their conquest of Troy. The conditions of satisfaction (to borrow a term from John Searle’s work on language, mind, and meaning) for their project to succeed in its intentions was for Sinon to deceive the public.

    Although I want to thank you for including the link to Vegio’s Supplementum, which I’d never encountered before, I do want to quarrel with your characterization of Dido as “crazy in love” with Aeneas, and with your treatment of the basis for the questions raised by the final scene of Turnus’ death.

    First, note that Dido’s attraction for Aeneas is attributed directly to Cupid, acting on Venus’ orders, who enchants her with a spell “no god could break.” The emotions that she feels are imputed on her from outside her — they are part and parcel of the unravelling of fate’s scrolls as Jupiter reads them off (Cf. I.927ff & I.354ff). We must recognize, though that such a framework is a necessary assumption for the propagandistic epic that Virgil was asked to write: Augustan could only be divinely sanctioned and fated to lead if Aeneas, demigod that he was, had been fated to found Rome on Latium.

    In addressing the second question, about the standards by which we ought to judge Aeneas’ killing of Turnus, I can understand the impulse to want to use a more contemporary future-oriented science fiction approach to interpret a puzzling classic. However, it seems as if Virgil supplies us with enough information in his own text — on two fronts, at least: from Jupiter & from Anchises.

    The concluding passage of Jupiter’s aforementioned speech concludes with an image of the Pax Romana following the Battle of Actium: “The gruesome gates/ of war, with tightly welded iron plates, / shall be shut fast. WIthin, unholy Rage / shall sit on his ferocious weapons, bound / behind his back by a hundred knots of brass; / he shall groan horribly with bloody lips” (Mandelbaum, I.412-417) Whether the connotative values of this passage ought to be taken to support or undermine Octavian rule is indeed debatable: but it provides a grim model of Rage (that is, an emotion, on par with resentment, fury, anger) under exceeding restraint: being bound, sitting on his own weapons, imprisoned by gates.

    On the other hand, Aeneas’ trip to the underworld provides him with insights from his apparently enlightened father, Anchises, who reveals an epicurean cosmology that includes metempsychosis (reincarnation) and no mention of gods whatsoever. His stipulations on the Roman art of “rulership of nations” is no less robust than Jupiter’s: “remember, Roman, these will be your arts: / to teach the ways of peace to those you conquer, / to spare defeated peoples, tame the proud.”

    From the inception of the book, Aeneas provides a model of the Stoic individual suppressing emotion for the public good, in order to meet the demands of fate that resembles Jupiter’s description of the Gates, especially in II.762-840). The gods variously appear to check him when he neglects to subordinate his emotions to the duties that filial and civic piety place on him. It is this repeated emphasis throughout the text on filial and civic piety that is at the core of the tension for Aeneas in his slaughter of Turnus in Bk 12.

    Turnus has taken (as custom would accord him the right, and as Aeneas also does) a treasure from a slain combatant, Pallas. Aeneas recalls the oath that he swore to Evander, Pallas’ father, that he would protect his son.

    Thus, Aeneas has entreated himself into the filial bond between father and son; he himself demonstrates a respect for this relationship in his own caring of Anchises and his preservation of Iulus’ life. So Turnus’ pleas are ones that correspond to the values that Aeneas himself upholds. It is the glimpse of Turnus’ belt that drives Aeneas into a rage after he deliberates this, and Virgil presents a vision of Aeneas slaughtering Turnus with an uncontrollable rage that has finally broken from its brass knots and out of the gates that shut it tight.

    These frustrations have been pent since Aeneas first wanted to slaughter Helen but was chided down by his mother-goddess, but they seem to have been tempered by Aeneas’ august Roman virtue. To what extent is his slaughter of Turnus a violation or an observance of Anchises’ stipulations concerning the Roman art of rulership in Bk VI?

    Not being a Latin scholar, I’m unable to attend to the wording of the last two lines in their original composition; indeed, all that I’ve addressed are Mandelbaum’s translations of what appear to be Virgil’s lines. (And what is translation or the possibility of translation if authorial intent doesn’t factor into meaning?).

    If the Latin is as ambiguous in its use of the personal pronouns as Mandelbaum’s English, then Virgil certainly leaves us with serious questions to consider in 1270-1271: “His limbs fell slack with chill; and with a moan/ his life, resentful, fled to Shades below.” The ambiguity here — our ability to read this last pair of lines as referring either to Turnus or to Aeneas (or, indeed, both) is due to the intentional arrangement of the words as ambiguous in such-and-such a way.

    It seems to me that intertextuality itself is much over-rated and under-criticized, for all the so-called critical theorists who tout its glories. The only paper I’ve been able to find on this subject that explicitly analyzes the vague claims of intertextual theory post-Kristeva is one called, simply “Against Intertextuality” by Bill Irwin. It’s worth undertaking a serious consideration of the veracity of the claim that authorial intention doesn’t matter or the alternative, softer claim that linguistic or textual properties, such as intertextuality, somehow supervene on authorial intention.

    It’s certainly less sexy to claim that the creators of Battlestar Gallactica or Vegio had read and formed interpretations of Virgil’s Aeneid or patterned their work off of his. In the first instance, this would make Vegio’s text a sort of “fan fiction.” Undoubtedly, the claim that these chronologically later works change the meaning of their predecessors is a bold one: but seems to still bely an assumption that there is a meaning to be revealed beyond the texts themselves, as they are.

    To put it much more confusingly: If readers are as much constructors of meaning as authors are, and author’s intentions don’t matter, then why should readers’ intentions matter any more? I’m not sure whether meaning is an extra-textual or even extra-mental phenomenon. But certainly, interpretations are kinds of beliefs, and beliefs are kinds of mental representations.

    Texts and speech, on the other hand, are two different kinds of (textual and oral) linguistic representation. So it’s important for us to provide a sketch of the territory of what we talk about when we talk about “meaning” — is it a representation, and if so, of what order? Or is meaning a kind of metaphysical first principle? Do we even need to concern ourselves with meaning, or are we really concerned with interpretations? What are these interpretations of or about? (What are the objects of the interpretation?)

    Identifying the parameters and conditions of meaning would be necessary in order to justify the claim that authorial intentions don’t matter. But, with that said, I would call us both to bear in mind the typographical nature and vivid images provided in Virgil’s Aeneid as we consider the words that the narrator uses to describe Aeneas as he gazes on the architecture of Carthage: “With many tears and sighs he feeds / his soul on what is nothing but a picture.”

    • Burke

      Thank you for your thoughtful response! I’m a little embarrassed because I wrote this analysis before studying or even having an understanding of the Death of the Author or the ideas surrounding it. As such, my argument assumes that there is a single, objective meaning to a text when it would be better served by arguing that each readers interpretation is equally valid. Nevertheless, you respond well both to what I said and what I should’ve said. I will have to read Irwin’s article. I also appreciate the time you take to address the deaths of Turnus and Dido. I suppose my own bias for an optimistic reading is apparent – I am borrowing ideas from primarily optimistic articles in that section. I hope to leave a more thorough response soon, but I’m currently in the middle of testing season, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I take some time

      • Certainly don’t feel rushed, but thanks for your response: I’m also grading midterms at the moment, so I understand completely. One interesting book on this account to look at might be Derrida’s Limited Inc., which is part of a dialog with John Searle.

        Checking out Searle’s work on intentionality, meaning and mind might prove useful — although there’s been little synthetic work on this in literary studies; he tends to be used more in communication theory and philosophy, though his work can be (I think) put to good account in literary and cultural criticism.

        In any case, I’m interested to see how you might respond to this reading of the Aeneid in the future, but certainly — no rush. I’m not sure myself whether I would side with the “optimistic” or “pessimistic” reading of Virgil’s Aeneid as regards his attitudes toward Roman Imperialism, but I am curious what the Aeneid seems to suggest about intentionality, meaning, and interpretation. (& likewise with Battlestar!)

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