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CL4054 The Epic Tradition

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.
  • Module Organiser:
    • Dr Martine Cuypers
  • Duration:
    • All year
  • Contact Hours:
    • 44 hours, 22 x 2 hour seminars
  • Weighting:
    • 20 ECTS

The IliadOdyssey 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).