In the Shadow of a Poet: A Feminist Reading of Virgil’s Camilla
The relative critical disinterest in Camilla of Virgil's Aeneid belies her complexity as a character. She is strong, proud, and sure of herself, but she never quite tips over into egotism. She is loyal, dutiful, and (generally) clearheaded, but never predictable. She is beloved and loving, but she is not defined by sentiment. Her complexities strongly implicate her as an extremely important character in Virgil's magnum opus; she is half experiment in creativity and half tribute to the intricacies of femininity. To really see her, one must view her with the lens of contemporary feminist criticism, for it is only by stripping away generations of androcentric ideology that she becomes truly visible. She is Virgil's new variety of heroine, a two-thousand-year-old foray into the liberation of women from patriarchal bondage. Camilla exists as a woman who has never experienced domination by a man or a male-centered world, who has been liberated from androcentrism since her infancy, and who feels no pressure to perform prescribed gender roles. The fact that she has been, for the most part, passed over by critics has more to do with their own insecurities with regard to her and to Virgil than with any inherent fault of Camilla's; it is the pinnacle of critical irony that a strong, emancipated female is ignored in favor of weaker, archetypal women, and then called “marginal.” Nothing could be further from the truth – Camilla is not marginal at all!