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Future's Phantoms, or Reincarnations of the Parricidal Past in the Roman d'Eneas Zrinka Stahuljak D'aucune façon l'un n'engendre l'autre; simplement, ils se succèdent, mais une discontinuit é essentielle les sépare. —Paul Zumthor BETWEEN THE MIDDLE of the eleventh and the end of the twelfth century the feudal family begins to conceptualize itself as a line of male descendants extending through time from the first founding ancestor, who originated the line in a mythic past, to the present heir.1 From this first founding father onward, the continuity of the unbroken filiation from father to son bestows nobility on lineage, exalts the line and legitimizes its hold on power. The tie that binds the father to the son is the family's patrimony (land, title, patronymic), which is transmitted downward from heir to heir. Genealogy articulates the family in the form of this linear descent of patrimony and it allows the family to perceive itself living in time: it gives it its history.2 As Gabrielle Spiegel points out in her article "Genealogy: Form and Function in Medieval Historiography," the genealogical model which allows the family to historicize itself is also used as a "conceptual metaphor" for the narrative of History, as "a symbolic form that governs the very shape and significance of the past" (my emphasis).' Spiegel argues that genealogy shapes the past "by supplying a model for the disposition of narrative material" (105); it "deploys history as a series of biographies linked by the principle of hereditary succession" (106), where "the most significant structural divisions of history are supplied by generational change" (107). The successive generations of genealogy divide, measure, and humanize historical time, while the father/son relationship provides a principle of historical articulation, a way of giving significance to the past: "The procreative process by which human beings engender successive generations is the human shape of history generating events over time, events that stand in a filiative relation to one another" (108). Past and present are connected as father and son are connected; an event "generates" another event as the father generates the son. Genealogy, the unbroken and natural continuity of fathers and sons, allows history to articulate itself as a seamless and seemingly natural continuity of events, which, as Spiegel concludes, is designed to overcome "the conceptual parataxis [of] medieval narrative form" (109), that is, the tendency to conceive events as potentially unrelated to one another, radically disjointed. 14 Spring 2000 Stahuljak While I agree with Spiegel, I propose, nonetheless, to question the ability of genealogy to overcome the paratactic disjunction of the historical narrative and of history itself. In order to do so, I will focus on a French vernacular "translation" of Virgil's Mneid, the Roman d'Eneas (1156-1160),4 a text which is so concerned with genealogical issues that it has been called "la généalogie des généalogies."51 will be reading the episode that many critics consider central to the roman, in which Eneas descends into the underworld and encounters the shade of his dead father Anchises, who prophesies to him his future genealogy.6 What will concern me here is the puzzling articulation of genealogy and death: why is Eneas' genealogy (and, with it, future history) revealed by a dead father in the world of the dead? The thematic of death, I will argue, points to the paratactic disjunction which genealogy tries to cover, explodes the natural connection between father and son, and ultimately calls into question the filiative articulation of historical events. Let me first situate the episode. After the destruction of Troy, Eneas searches for the divinely promised land of Italy, where his descendants will found Rome "which will be head of all the world" (1. 2979). After seven years of wandering and a languid winter in Carthage with Dido, Eneas returns to the burial ground of his father Anchises, in the port of Sichanz, where Anchises appears in his dream to promise him that "[P]uis ne sera fin de ton renne:/de toi naistra real ligniee/par tot Io mont ert essauciee" (11. 2188-90) [Then there will be no end to your reign: a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 14-24
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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