Weiner said the recent buzz over Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey gave him the starting point for the essay, which looks back to Hélisenne de Crenne’s 16th century French translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Hélisenne de Crenne was the pseudonym of French noblewoman Marguerite Briet. Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey is the first English translation by a woman.
Weiner suggests that by translating only the first four books of the Aeneid, Hélisenne produced not an incomplete translation but rather a radical intervention upon Virgil’s epic.
“In Hélisenne's hand, the Aeneid transforms from a celebration of Roman nationalism into a feminist tale of tragic romance and male perfidy, which problematizes the victimization of women,” Weiner said.
“While largely forgotten today, Hélisenne's Aeneid marks a vitally important moment in feminism, translation, and the classics,” he added.