Unit: Understanding the influence of Homer’s Odyssey What is an epic?
I.Most epics share certain characteristics: • the hero is of imposing stature, of national or international importance, and of great historical or legendary significance; • the setting is vast, covering great nations, the world, or the universe; • the action or plot consists of deeds of great valor or requiring superhuman courage; • supernatural forces—gods, angels, and demons—interest themselves in the action;
I. Most epics share certain characteristics: (continued) • a style of sustained elevation is used; and • the poet retains a measure of objectivity—that is, the poet does not intrude with his views on the action; he simply reports on the action, leaving the audience to infer which characters’ values are worthy and which are not.
II. Common Devices of The Epic To these general characteristics (some of which are omitted from particular epics) should be added a list of common devices employed by most epic poets: • the poet opens by stating the theme, • invoking a muse (invocation,) and • beginning the narrative in medias res—in the middle of things—giving the necessary exposition later;
II. More Common Devices of the Epic • the poet includes catalogs or lists of warriors, ships, armies; describes the details of feasts • there are extended formal speeches by the main character; • and the poet makes frequent use of epithets to characterize and the epic simile, also known as the Homeric simile, and the epithet—two devices that reveal and enliven characters, places, and events.
III. The Purpose an Epic serves • To entertain the audience • To instruct the young on proper behavior • To elevate the society’s history • To impart a sense of a glorious history to the young • To create a link between the generations in the society • To create shared values in the society • To warn future generations about what harms or even destroys individuals, groups, nations