Cuddon, J. A. A Dictionary of Literary Terms. Doubleday & Company, Inc. N. Y. 1976,
Think of names like Odysseus, Beowulf,
Milton, Dante? It is a long narrative poem About a warrior or hero – usually (Dante, Virgil) Incorporates myth, legends, folk tales, and history Often a national significance in the sense that they embody history and aspirations of a nation
Two kinds of epics: primary or oral (primitive), and secondary or literary The primary oral tradition epics were composed orally and recited by a poet or bard (scop)– Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Iliad, and Odyssey. The secondary was written down from the start – Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno. Gilgamesh, the Sumerian epic (3000 B.C.), is the earliest work of oral tradition – the search for glory and eternal life.
epics ďƒ˜ ďƒ˜
Beowulf survives in a manuscript, but began as oral tradition before the 8th century. These epics have in common a central hero, of superhuman caliber, perilous journeys, misadventures, elements of supernatural, repetition of fairly long passages of narrative or dialogue, digressions, epic similes (Homeric similes), speeches, vivid details, lofty tone, all is larger than life (no place for the humdrum). Both also contain epithet and kennings.
The bard was traditional inspired by the Muse to sing after a feast or during celebration. Hence traditionally in written epics the narrator calls on the Muse for divine inspiration for accuracy of telling the tale. Virgil, as referenced by Dante, is the primary influence of secondary epic that becomes the primary form of the epic in the early 13th century.
EPIC HERO The Characteristics: Significance is glorified On a quest Superior, superhuman strength, intelligence, and/or courage Ethical to his society/culture Risks death for glory and greater good Brave deeds Responsible Reflects the ideals of society