Monday, July 25, 2011

The Poetry of Epicness

When you think of epic poetry two poems probably come to mind: the 
Odyssey and the Iliad. Epic poems were at first always told by oral traditions. They could be in a sense, the ancient people's form of listening books and entertainment. Often the stories could be acted out.

Epic poems are long, serious, and narrative. They pertain to the heroic acts that significantly effects a nation or culture. Usually the heroes are mythological figures and they struggle on some kind of journey or quest.

Epic poems usually have seven different ways you have tell them apart from other forms of literature.
  1. It starts in the middle of the story, usually with flashbacks to explain what happened before.
  2. The setting occurs in many different places.
  3. It begins with an invocation to a muse (called the epic invocation)
  4. It includes th use of epithets.
  5. Features long and formal speeches. 
  6. Usually has gods and goddesses or some kind of divine force interacting with human affairs.
  7. The protagonist (the hero) usually embodies the characteristics of the civilization.
And after going on this long quest and having faced many enemies, the hero usually returns significantly changed since the beginning of the story.

I remember learning about epic poems in literature class during my freshman year of  high school. We studied the Odyssey for a couple months. We listed the good/bad traits of Odysseus, talked about epic poems, and as the stupid freshmen we were, we made goofed off during class. I think I was the only one who actually payed attention.

Wikipedia- Epic Poetry
Epic Poetry

So, what are your favorite epic poems? Have you ever tried writing one or do you know of someone who has?


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