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One Thousand Years of the English Epic

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  1. Beowulf was handed down from pagan oral tradition and transcribed in its present form by a Christian commentator
  2. Another key aspect of the epic is stylistic, elevated language.
  3. The hero of an epic is not simply representative of an ideology, however.
  4. Another typical feature in the epic form is the cataloguing of characters or itemizing of objects.
  5. In the end, an epic is about celebrating heroism in all its guises.

The epic is arguably the ultimate achievement in literature. Its grand scope and its demands on knowledge and language mastery set it singularly apart from other genres. Authors throughout the history of the written tradition have attempted to master the imposing scale and complexities of an epic work. Creating an epic, however, is no light task and requires compliance with general epic conventions.
The epic tradition began with the ancient Greeks. A poet called Homer is credited with The Odyssey and The Iliad, which set the standards for epics ever since. Roman authors followed many of the same devices, and the more modern examples have held with these precedents.

[...] One Thousand Years of the English Epic The epic is arguably the ultimate achievement in literature. Its grand scope and its demands on knowledge and language mastery set it singularly apart from other genres. Authors throughout the history of the written tradition have attempted to master the imposing scale and complexities of an epic work. Creating an epic, however, is no light task and requires compliance with general epic conventions. The epic tradition began with the ancient Greeks. A poet called Homer is credited with The Odyssey and The Iliad, which set the standards for epics ever since. [...]


[...] Another typical feature in the epic form is the cataloguing of characters or itemizing of objects. In Beowulf, there are extensive lists of ancestry. In Morte Darthur the fourteen knights who confront Lancelot and Guinevere are listed all at once. The catalog of angels in Paradise Lost is a prime example of this device. A list of the fallen angels includes Baalim, Ashtaroth, Thammuz, Dagon, Azotus, Rimmon, Osiris, Isis, and Orus- gods from non-Christian religions. Cataloguing like this showcases Milton's knowledge of the classical world. [...]

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