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The Epic in English

By Maud McInerney

Abstract

Through close readings of texts ranging from the classical to the modern, this course will\ud investigate the poetic and narrative strategies of epic poetry. While the English tradition\ud can, in one sense, be said to begin with Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic left almost no\ud mark upon the subsequent history of the genre. The heroic impulse in the English\ud tradition is instead much more powerfully influenced and complicated by the antithetical\ud models of Homer, Ovid, and, later, by that of Dante. We will explore the tensions and\ud contradictions between insular narratives and traditions and the continuing power of\ud classical and continental models. Critical readings will engage issues of influence,\ud interpretation, revision, reinvention, Working through the concepts of context and\ud intertextuality, we will pay particular attention to the backwaters and cross-currents of the\ud tradition in English, and to the tendency of epic\ud energy to move in unexpected directions: into\ud theology with Milton, toward satire or\ud impossibility in the Romantic period, into various\ud cinematic and pop-culture modes in the 21st\ud century. Why, for instance, do otherwise\ud intelligent people feel that it is appropriate to refer\ud to the James Bond films as “epic”?\ud Be forewarned: the reading load for this class is\ud heavy. But then you already know that epics are\ud long, right

Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:triceratops.brynmawr.edu:10066/16234
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