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CL4054 The Epic Tradition

The Death of Paris

Module Organiser: Dr. Martine Cuypers
Duration of Course: All year
Contact Hours: 44 (22 x 2-hour seminar)
Weighting: 10 ECTS

Description: In this course we will read a selection of epic texts ranging from the 8th century BCE to the 6th century CE. We will look at the various incarnations of the epic genre (including epyllia and non-continuous narrative poems) and the demarcation with elegy, didactic and hymn. The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid will be treated as known quantities, to be discussed in relation to other epics rather than in their own right.

Topics will include: the Iliad and Odyssey as seminal and canonical texts; Callimachus' Aetia and narrative elegy; epyllia: Theocritus 13, 24, Ps-Theocritus 25, Ps.-Moschus' Megara, Catullus 64; Apollonius' Argonautica; early Roman epic (Livius Andronicus, Naevius, Ennius Virgil); Ovid's Metamorphoses (selection); Lucan's Pharsalia; Valerius Flac­cus’ Argonautica; Quintus' Posthomerica; Nonnus' Dionysiaca; Claudian's Rape of Proserpina and Colluthus' Rape of Helen (with Moschus’ Europa).

Although we do not have time to engage with the reception of Greco-Roman epic in Medieval and Renaissance literature in great detail, we will explore its general shape and look somewhat closer at a few examples (e.g. Petrarch’s Africa, Walter of Châtillon’s Alexandreis). You will also encounter comparative material from non-classical traditions at at various points in the course: Gilgamesh, Mahabharata, Táin Bó Cúalnge, Lacplesis, Beowulf, Shahnameh, Nibelungenlied.

Introductory Reading

  • Foley, J.M. (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Epic (Wiley-Blackwell 2005).
  • Toohey, P., Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives (1992).
  • King, K.C., Ancient Epic (Wiley-Blackwell pb. 2009).
  • Boyle, A.J. (ed.), Roman Epic (Routledge 1993, pb. 1996).

Epic Tradition Course Guide (PDF, 78kb)
Exam Papers


Last updated 25 February 2011 ryanw1@tcd.ie.