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Brief Definition of the Epic What are epics, myths, and legends? Epics were originally long narrative poems dating back to the classical period at least,

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Presentation on theme: "Brief Definition of the Epic What are epics, myths, and legends? Epics were originally long narrative poems dating back to the classical period at least,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Brief Definition of the Epic What are epics, myths, and legends? Epics were originally long narrative poems dating back to the classical period at least, and often dealing with events significant to a culture, or with heroic deeds. Myths and legends are both found reworked or embedded in epics; myths are fictional, while legends are at least partly based on fact. The oldest epics were a series of shorter texts, produced initially by oral cultures and then transcribed in early scripts such as Linear A or Linear B, and much later reworked into lengthier narratives with the advent of more modern systems of writing (e.g., Homer’s Iliad may have existed as a series of shorter texts during the Bronze Age, in Linear B script, soon after the Trojan War [c. 1250 B.C.]). Epic characteristics or patterns can also be found in specific novels, although such texts do not fit the original (genre- based) definition of an epic. Suggested Reading “Linear B.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_B Linear B sound “ka” Linear B sound “na”

2 Main Points About the Epic deal with problems fundamental to man and world (De Vries 141) not necessary that life of hero contains all motifs characteristic of the role; his life should be, more or less, reflection of heroic pattern (210) hero’s life not merely combination of marvelous deeds but also expression of a certain idea (211) De Vries believes that a heroic pattern is prevalent in most epics, and suggests it is a 10-step structure: 1. hero is created (one parent is usually a God or animal); 2. hero is born (usually takes place unnaturally); 3. hero’s youth is threatened (exposed to the elements, etc.); 4. hero’s growth (usually spectacular, with him revealing strength, courage, etc.); 5. hero’s invulnerability (introduced as motif in later epics; e.g., Achilles, who can only be wounded in heel); 6. hero fights with dragon or monster (a typical heroic deed); 7. hero wins a maiden (usually after overcoming dangers); 8. hero makes expedition to underworld (e.g., Aeneas in Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid); 9. hero sometimes banished (usually in youth, but returns and is victorious over enemies); 10. hero dies (often the death is miraculous, with him ascending into heavens or vanishing into a desert, etc.) Works Cited De Vries, Jan. Heroic Song and Heroic Legend. London: Oxford UP, 1963.

3 Heroic Myth in Modern Times recycling of epic conventions (i.e., characteristics of classical epic) can be seen in more modern treatments of heroic myth, such as those of western “gunfighter” (e.g., Eastwood’s man-with-no- name persona), tribal hero of some postcolonial literature (e.g., Achebe’s character of Okonkwo), or local hero of some magical realist texts (e.g., Carpentier’s character of Macandal) all three types take audience into past of relevant culture; in Achebe’s case, pre-colonial African interior is investigated in relation to characters considered heroic and/or noble in such context; in the case of mythology of “Wild West,” an often paradoxical heroic/outlaw type is investigated in relation to both a primitive, lawless frontier and trickle-down effects of Industrial Revolution (e.g., the revolver; trains; telegraphs); in Carpentier’s case, Macandal bridges together African mythology and local history of Haiti within a magical realist context gunfighter has origins in western European highwayman (i.e., outlaw) and duelist (i.e., honor code) of period c. 1600ish to 1830ish; also influential, to lesser extent, is bandit/rebel of eastern Europe that under Ottoman Empire at that time, such as Greek Klepht or Balkan Hajduk (cf. pics. on next slide) History of “Wild West” falls into three periods: (a) period after Mexican-American War and before U.S. Civil War (c. 1848 to 1860); (b) “Golden Age” from Civil War (c. 1861-5) to 1880s; and (c) 1890s to Mexican Revolution (c. 1910-20) Suggested Reading “Gunfighter.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunfighter

4 Early 19 th -cent. Duelists The Trial of Nerves, D.T. Egerton (1824) Early 19 th -cent. Klephts & Hajduks Dimitrios MakrisVeljko Petrovich

5 Wild West “Gunfighters” Captain Jonathan R. Davis, on Dec. 19, 1854, killed 11 armed outlaws near Sacramento, California, using two Colt revolvers and a Bowie knife Black Bart, notorious stagecoach robber operating in Northern California and southern Oregon in 1870s and 80s, often left poetic messages behind, after his robberies

6 A “Black Bart” Poem Suggested Links “Black Bart.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Bart_(outlaw Rage at Dawn. Dir. Tim Whelan. Starring Randolph Scott and Forrest Tucker. 1955. YouTube. 15 Mar. 2015.. [A good example ofhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwkaWL1k81Y pre-Eastwood western movies.]


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