This thesis has as its object to investigate the fate of epic in France in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Piron's La Louisiade of 1745 and Chateaubriand's Les Martyrs of 1809 are chosen to indicate the precise delimitation of the period of study. Given the incidence of epic composition during these sixty-odd years, no attempt at completeness has been made but representative works are\ud examined in sufficient number and detail to ensure an accurate idea of the genre.\ud \ud In the belief that an informed reading of epic is impossible without a knowledge of epic theory, Chapter One explores the substantial corpus of critical writing on the subject during the years under review. There is constant reference to previous critical opinion in an attempt to discover to what extent the theory of epic remained faithful to the neoclassical norm in France.\ud \ud Following this necessary preliminary, Chapters Two to Four present a detailed analysis of the three major categories of this generic form. These latter comprise: the national historical epic, epics on the discovery and conquest of the New World and the biblical epic. The first and third categories represent a continuation of an established French\ud tradition, whereas the second is innovatory and peculiar to the eighteenth century. Within these three chapters, each of which is therefore devoted to one class of epic, works are subjected to individual critical assessment and are normally treated in a chronological sequence based on subject-matter.\ud \ud In order to achieve an overall picture of epic practice, Chapter Five briefly charts the general features of creative epic writing in France from 1745 to 1809. The Conclusion evaluates the genre and offers some reasons for its failure
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