Epic (2376 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Adeline Johns-Putra (University of Surrey)
  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume : WORLD HISTORY AND IDEAS: A CROSS-CULTURAL VOLUME.


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The simplest definition for the epic is a long, heroic, narrative poem. However, the epic means much more than this, for the very word connotes a special status—a profound national or even universal relevance as well as greatness, not merely in the scope and breadth of the narrative but in its poetic merit. The problem, however, with describing the epic in terms of its special status is that this easily becomes a prescription rather than description, a demand that poems (or, later, novels, or even films) must be good enough to be epic. It does not account for works that aspire to epic status yet apparently lack excellence. More importantly, the vagueness of these terms fails also to explain the complexity of the epic tradition, which c…

Johns-Putra, Adeline. "Epic". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 August 2004
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=343, accessed 25 October 2016.]

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  1. Literary Genres and Modes