lesbiassparrow: (Default)
So, I know I've mentioned this in some comments to people's posts, but I thought I'd share it here.

Once I was in a...let's say fairly fraught academic setting, sitting down for the worst lunch I have ever had and suffering from jetlag. The woman beside me was going on about fanfic and one senior academic asked about it and its limits. Well, off she goes on about how she wrote Harry Potter fanfic to reclaim Hermione as a strong woman from JK Rowling because apparently Rowling hates the strong women.* And no doubt puppies as well. And then she claims the Aeneid as fanfiction, because quite clearly Virgil was a big Homer fanboy. No, honestly, this is what she said, except for the fanboy bit.

I am always sorry that I didn't say that I thought if it was fanfiction then Virgil was obviously writing a complete Mary Sue (Marty Sue?) and that Aeneas was absolutely OOC. Because he was useless in the Iliad what with needing to be saved by mum and all. Also it infuriates me, because fanfic is not just taking other people's ideas/characters and doing something with it, that's influence. Or the anxiety of influence. Or just literature.

Fanfic has a particular place in relationship to its source which is as much defined by the way people think about it and locate it as it does what it does. I don't think The Wide Sargasso Sea is fanfic, because of its literary status and really where it sits critically. This might seem terribly unfair, but that's is the way things work. It's possible that this might change, but stil that does not make the Aeneid fanfic, no more than it does The Inferno. That Thirteenth book of the the Aeneid, on the other hand, I'm not so sure about.

I should add it's not that I dislike fanfic and don't think some of it can be incredibly well written (hell, there are shows where I think the fanfic is written with more thought than what goes on the screen). And I enjoy reading it very much when it's well done.

ETA: Also, from comment below, it's not that it's I think literature = original genius and fanfic = derivative copying. Because well, there are only about 8 plots in the world, so originality is going to be hard to find these days. Fanfic can be original and clever and rework the original idea, but still I will stick by my original point: the Aeneid is not fanfiction. It, after all, does belong to an era which had a totally different relationship to its sources than the era which came up with the concept of fanfiction.

*She was very smug about this. And above almost all qualities I really hate smugness, so maybe my eternal loathing for her is not very rational.
lesbiassparrow: (Default)
Poems which are easy to dislike: the Aeneid

Most people's reactions on reading the Aeneid are a bit puzzled. As in 'what is all the fuss about this poem? You're kidding me that Virgil wrote it at two lines a day and this is what he came up with?'

It has the problem of not having a very inspiring hero. Aeneas, really, is a incredibly pallid character and also a bit of a git what with the trail of dead women he leaves in his wake.* Also he is not very bright. No, honestly, he is the dumbest epic hero ever. People give him prophecy after prophecy telling him to go to Italy and he's 'oh, right you mean Thrace/Crete/where ever I happen to see next.' Mind you, his father is just as thick, and completely one with him on the misreading of prophecy. (My favourite bit: the scene where dad sees horses and says that they are either an omen of peace or war. Right. Covering your bases a bit with that one, Anchises.)

But for all that I think it is a great and horribly sad poem, mainly because Aeneas is so ordinary. Here's this bit player in the Iliad who only wants a heroic death, who is forced by his mother, Venus, to carry the glory of Troy to Italy. And he doesn't want to. All he wants to do is settle down, rebuild what he can of Troy and have a quiet life with his son and father. He keeps trying to do this again and again and it ends in disaster until he just lets himself be swallowed up by his destiny.

And in the course of the poem he loses everything. He sees his whole world ripped away from him with the destruction of Troy. He loses the woman he loves, he abandons his mercy in the final lines of the poem to kill from sheer rage. And what does he get in return? A mother who once says she'd be happy if he died as long as she can save his son, three years with a woman who probably doesn't want him, and an empire he doesn't care about. It's all about sacrificing yourself for something which will give you no pleasure because people have bigger plans for you than you can possibly imagine or want. Which is why it is both great and horrible.

*I have just realised this makes him sound like a psychopath. He doesn't actually kill the women directly, more they sort of, well, die around him.


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August 2011

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