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Epic Poetry


									EPIC POETRY
               EPIC LITERATURE

• Epic: a long narrative poem about the deeds of
  gods or heroes
  • Ex. Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad
• Theories on the Origin of Epics
  • First epics were collections of various unknown poets
    eventually molded into one work
  • Most scholars believe epics may have accumulated in this
    way but a single genius gives it structure and expression
• Folk Epics: epics without certain authorship
  • Beowulf

• Hero: super human strength, character, or intellect
  • Of national and international importance
  • Fatal/tragic flaw – leads to his demise
    • Ex. Achilles’ heel
• Setting: vast in scope/ covers great nations, the world,
  the universe
• Action: deeds of great valor or requiring superhuman
• Supernatural Forces: gods, angels, demons
  • Involved in action
  • Intervene from time to time
• Style: elevated (raised to a higher level)
• Epic poet (scop): uses objectivity to tell narrative
• Poet opens by stating theme
• Invokes a Muse to inspire and instruct him
• Opens the narrative in media res
   • Latin for “in the middle of things”
• Catalogs – listing of warriors, ships, weapons, armies
• Extended formal speeches by main characters
• Epic simile: elaborate comparison of common everyday situations
  to heroic, supernatural situations
   • Ex. Comparing fishing to killing a monster
• Epithet: an adjective or adjective phrase applied to a person or
  thing to emphasize a characteristic, quality or attribute
   • Ex. The man of twists and turns
   • Homeric Epithet: an epithet consisting of a compound
     • Ex. Ox-eyed Hera, swift-footed Achilles, rosy-fingered dawn
• Narrative Drift: interrupting the narration to elaborate on an
  aspect of what is being spoken about
   • Ex. If a gift of wine is mentioned the author may then
     explain not only the history of the gift but the history of the
• Meter: fixed pattern of accented and unaccented syllables in
  the lines of a poem that produces its pervasive rhythm
   • Dactylic hexameter: first five feet are dactyls (accented
     syllable followed by to unaccented)
     • Last foot is a spondee
         • Two accented syllables
     • Ex. “This is the / forest prim- / eval. The / murmuring / pines
        and the / hem locks,”
     • Translations do not include the meter
         • Greek version has long and short sounds

•   Hospitality: Zeus avenges the unoffending guest
•   Respect for the Gods
•   The importance of lineage
•   Loyalty
•   Pride and honor
•   Resisting temptation/self-discipline
•   Live life to the fullest: Odysseus is an explorer
•   Justice/revenge: Homer sees it as justifiable
•   Reconciliation
•   Fate: Greeks great believers that we do not have
    control over out destinies

• Not sure if he existed
• Some accounts suggest he was blind
• Lived some time before 700 B.C. in Asia Minor,
  Smyrna or Chios
  • Wrote in ionic and Aeloic dialects
• Commonly attributed authorship of Iliad and
  • The Odssey and Iliad were probably written around 8th
    century B.C.
  • Homer memorized and sung the song in a series of

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