Virgil Society Lecture: Dr Elena Giusti (Warwick)

‘Rac(ializ)ing Dido’


It is often remarked that ‘race’ is a verb, not a noun. It designates process and action (‘racing’ or ‘racialization’), not fixed traits or inherent characteristics. But if ‘race’ as the nominal product of ‘race-craft’ does not exist in reality, it is nevertheless an illusion with some very real, and life-threatening, consequences. Taking the cue from the seminal work of Shelley Haley, this paper reads Dido (in and before Virgil, together with some selected instances of her reception) through the lens of Critical Race Theory. It exposes her variously rac(ializ)ed identities as a Semitic, Phoenician and at times even African woman, as well as her role in turn as a raci(aliz)ing subject of the indigenous people inhabiting the land that she has colonized.

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