introduction to epic poetry. 1.what is epic poetry? what does “epic” mean?

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  • 1.What is epic poetry? What does epic mean?
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  • Epic It comes from the ancient greek epiksmeaning related to epos. Epos means word, story, verse/line.
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  • What is Epic Poetry? Long narrative poem Written in an elevated style (it does not dwell on the banal details of life) Celebrates the deed of legendary or traditional heroes.
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  • 2.Lets draw a brief history of epic poetry from the beginnings to the Renaissance
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  • 1.Ancient epics date back to the 20th / 10th century BC. 2. Epic poetry begins with The Epic of Gilgamesh (2500 BC), set in Arab Peninsula of Ancient Mesopotamia. 3. The European epic tradition starts with with Homer in Greece around 800 BC with Iliad and Odyssey and continues with Virgils Aeneid (during Roman empire) and the epic poems of the Medieval time (La chanson de Roland) and the Renaissance (Orlando furioso e Gerusalemme Liberata). 4. The novel, a new literary genre, marks the end of epic poetry (XVII century).
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  • Epic of Gilgamesh 2500 BC 11 Clay Tablets (story) Most important epic poem in human history Various adventures of hero-king searching for immortality An account of the flood Characters Gilgamesh (2/3 god & 1/3 human) Enkidu (wild man)
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  • Homer 800 BC Did he exist? Creator of the Epic Poems The Iliad and The Odyssey Most likely a minstrel Traveling singer/storyteller Poems were oral for centuries before written down
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  • The Trojan War 1184 BC/ 800 BC (written) Main topic of The Iliad by Homer and latter The Aeneid by Virgil Achaeans vs. Trojans (10 yrs.) Helen of Troy abducted by Paris Achilles withdraws from the war and then rejoins in 10th yr. & kills Hector the Trojan Prince Wooden horse City captured & Helen returned to Menelaus
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  • The Odyssey 800 BC Tale of Odysseus 10 yrs. in Trojan War 10 yrs. to get home Presumed dead wife Penelope fighting off suitors Consists of 24 books
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  • 3.What were the primary functions of an epic?.
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  • 1. Epics typically served as historical records (whether accurate or not) in societies that did not yet have written documentation. They also included customs and beliefs that were the ideals of a given culture, so that they were passed down to succeeding generations. 2.Educational:the heroes provide a model of good behaviour 3.Entertainment: the audience enjoyed the performance of epic poetry by a bard or a professional singer.
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  • The main features and themes of epic poetry
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  • 1.It is focused on the adventures and accomplishments of heroic figures (mainly war, journeys, various adventures). 2.Human and divine are closely intertwined: deities and other supernatural agencies are often involved in human affairs. 3. Culture and history of a nation is often reflected in an epic. For example, Greek poet Homers great epics Iliad and Odyssey - are vastly based on Greek mythology and thus it reflects the Greek culture.
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  • - The story is usually set in a remote and obscure past with few archeological and historical evidence. - The language is elevated and dignified. - The poet uses metaphors and epithets (such as patronomics which are used repeatedly). - Repetion is the rule: the poets tend to use many times the same set of lines to describe a scene (a battlescene, for instance) or to refer a particular episode (a contest, a fight, the preparation of a meal). Repetition goes back to oral tradition: the poems were written down after centuries of oral transmission.
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  • Why is Epic Poetry Important today?
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  • Stories are still being passed down from generation to generation (children still go mad for Achilles, Ulixes and the likes). We see these same plots, heroes, struggles, archetypes, and events happening in life today (think of Marvels superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman and so on). References to these epic poems are in our books and movies today.


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