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The Shades of Aeneas: The Imitation of Vergil and the History of Paganism in Boccaccio's Filostrato, Filocolo, and Teseida (review)
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Reviews187 to examining institutional discourses which have too often fallen between the cracks of current academic disciplinary structures, are certainly of interest as New Historical documents. As such, they are in danger of descending into a Foucauldian epigonism which is nothing more than pedantry without a point. At times exaggerated claims are made for the importance of medical figures who have been ignored (perhaps rightly) for the last two centuries; at other times paragraphs full of arcane knowledge seem inserted only to prove the erudition and archival industriousness of the authors. Overall, however, these essays escape the danger ofbecoming New Historical parodies and contribute valuably to the field. The anthology's admirable bibliography and thorough index make it all the more helpful. TL· Languages of PsycL· should prove useful both to scholars who need an overview of the history of medicine and an introduction to the most recent work in the field and to specialists looking to polish their own work with the results ofthe latest research. Whitman CollegeRobert Tobin The Shades ofAeneas: The Imitation ofVergilandtheHistory of Paganism in Boccaccio's Filostrato, Filocolo, and Teseida , by James H. McGregor; ix & 133 pp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991, $30.00. James McGregor's Shades ofAeneas is a detailed study of three lesser-known works of Boccaccio: Filostrato, Filocolo, and Teseida. Its aim is to clarify the range of Vergilian and Statian allusions within these works and, in the process, to develop a coherent scheme for interpreting them. According to McGregor, all three ofthese early romances are highly critical ofthe pagan world they purport to describe; all three set forth the limits of pagan philosophy and thus, at least implicidy, affirm the superiority of Christian culture and values. Even such a brief summary should be sufficient to situate McGregor's investigation within the range of recent research on medieval literature. His interest in exploring imitative strategies and reconstructing didactic trajectories recalls the work ofcritics like D. W. Robertson and Robert Hollander. McGregor is himself quite explicit about such influences but nonetheless makes a strong case for the originality of his project. As he points out, his reading of Boccaccio may recall what has been said previously about Dante, yet it is far from a conventional reading of the later writer. 188Philosophy and Literature Shades ofAeneas takes its structure from the works it analyzes and, apart from a briefintroductory section, each chapter focuses upon the narrative ofa single romance. The first chapter examines Filostrato, the story of the love between Troilus and Criseida that is the source for Chaucer's Troilus. McGregor devotes comparatively little space to analyzing the love affair itself, but provides an extensive discussion of Troilus' resemblance to Aeneas. McGregor argues that Boccaccio's hero is Aeneas' erring double; he is the Trojan who does not follow the gods' will and is hence justifiably destroyed. Vergilian allusion within the work is not casual, but strategic; it is in relation to the Aeneid's narrative of escape and redemption that Troilus' failure must be measured. The next chapter deals with Filocolo, a prose romance about love between a pagan prince, Florio, and a captured Christian princess, Biancifiore. Here again, McGregor's interest lies in finding a clear didactic function for Boccaccio's use of the Aeneid. In this case, he argues, it is the Vergilian model of providential history as interpreted by Orosius that governs Boccaccio's allusions to the Aeneid. Biancifiore's eventual conversion of her lover and his kingdom to Christianity is an event as difficult to anticipate and as ineluctably ordained as the fall of Troy. Indeed, we are expected to see her capture in her mother's womb as a deliberate restaging of the "capture" of the Trojan horse. The two final chapters are a discussion of Tesada and they portray Boccaccio in his most hostile relationship to pagan culture. McGregor claims that the exceptional violence of Teseida and its multiple allusions to the Thebaid and Aeneid are part of a carefully articulated critique of the pagan ideal of pietas. The destructive passions that characterize the relationship between Arcita and Palemone and which Theseus fails to control prove how ineffective classical pietas is when confronted by furor...