Virgil, Sovereignty and Eros

Virgil, Sovereignty and Eros

A Reading Group

Cleo Kearns

Online. Bi-weekly Saturday mornings, 10-11:00 AM EST, beginning November 7, and then Nov 21, Dec 5, Dec 19.

Historical etching of a scene from Virgil’s Aeneid: the Cumaean Sibyl leads Aeneas through the underworld to the Golden Bough, enabling Aeneas to cross the river Styx. Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC) was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature: the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid.

Why Virgil? Why now?

Virgil’s Aeneid (19 B.C.E) marks the moment of confluence of two discourses: the discourse of Rome and the discourse of epic.  This confluence, made up of a fascination with the spectacle of Rome’s trajectory in history and the appeal of the epic literary form in cultural consciousness,  has shaped ideas of sovereignty, subjectivity, power, force, gender, nature and fate for centuries, not only in Europe but in the many places where Europe has exercised hegemony. It has been until recently the main text for the preparation of young men for the pain and sacrifice of induction into military and public life. The result has been toxic in the extreme.  But the Aeneid is not simply a primary witness to this spectacular and compelling toxicity. It also, unleashes energies elemental and animal, feminine and erotic, shamanic and spirited, that operate and have always operated in unpredictable ways on the bodies and souls of its readers.  Reading it together in our time will deepen our critique of the civilizational disease that has brought us to the brink of collapse, but it will also afford us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the breaks and disjunctures through which alternatives may emerge.

Facilitator: Cleo Kearns works in the fields of continental philosophy, anthropology and religion.  She is the author of two books T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  Her current research is on theory of religious sacrifice from Durkheim to Lacan and on contemporary global shamanism.  She teaches classes on shamanism, comparative religion, literature and philosophy both online and onsite and is currently a Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College.

Text: the Aeneid, trans. David West
Schedule: Bi-weekly reading group. Meets Saturday mornings, 10-11:00 AM EST, beginning November 7, and then Nov 21, Dec 5, Dec 19. [Note:  has been some interest in a parallel group meeting at a time better for those in the west and even a couple of people in Europe.  If there is enough interest, Cleo will open up another track Sunday afternoons at 4:00 PM EST beginning Dec. 12 and going through January.]

Zoom link to be sent the day before.


  • $30 – Member Ticket for Incite Seminars Patreon Supports at any level
  • $45 – Non-Member (True Cost) Ticket
  • $90 – Generous Supporter Ticket
  • $1+ – Solidarity Donation Ticket


Please register by buying a ticket at our Eventbrite page. We are committed to making all our offerings accessible to those who are eager to learn, regardless of financial means. If you have any questions or concerns, please email

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