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Features of epic poetry

Oral epic

Primary, primitive
Ballads and songs accumulated into epics; lays + ballads
Common knowledge
Looser, episodic composition
Epic hero is concerned with personal satisfaction
Written down in X - XI century
Hero is of super human caliber, supernatural forces emphasize heros
Comparisons, long speeches, descriptions and repetition for easier
Stock epithets appears in same form all the time rose-fingered dawn
Kennings type of metaphorical compound word or phrase used as an
allusion to a simpler idea wave-traveler, path of whales

Written epic

Written down from the start, not meant for singing

Role of hero is to protect group at any cost
Elaborate vocabulary and sentences
Less formulas and repetition
No digressions, tighter structure
Modeled by oral epics at first
The Fearie Queene, Paradise Lost and Paradise regained, Don Juan(parody)
Popular from XIII century
Artists and writers, not singers
Carefully chosen phrases

Epic singer/poet
Poems were recited by a: bard/Celtic, rhapsodist/Greece, scop/Anglo-Saxon,
skald/Scandinavia, and guslar/Serbia. They were mediators between past events
and present audience; they had historical distance, objective. They also had
freedom to do what they wanted with material at their hands speeding up, slowing
down, and flashbacks.
Epic Hero
Half divine, half human. He had heroic, divine stature, imposing presence. Future
depended on him. He was everyones favorite, respected and respectful,
courageous but modest. He had to protect, to lead, and defend. Hes larger than life

many historical figures combined in him. Ultimate sacrifice sometimes dies doing
his task.
Epic structure, composition, digressions, style
Poet had to be skilled to know what and how to work. He calls on Muses and Gods to
help him in performing; great detail, slow development. Poem starts in medias res
in the middle of action.
Devices for slowing down: retardation, digressions, episodes, repetition. Digressions
move the story away from the topic; longer descriptions of object, person, event;
not connected to theme. They dont have meaning of their own. Episodes are longer
and can stand on their own. Repetition refers to repetition of words, lines and
themes. Its reminder of main action, helps the poet memorize the story.
Style: formulaic expressions ubi sunt and sum-sum. It uses stock epithets, some
metric features, figures of speech, style elevated, appropriate for the grand themes.
Language is formulaic; tone serious, oral epics are simpler.
Fixed internal structure:
1. Introduction stating of the theme, invocation of Muse, characters
2. Announcement of the event
3. In medias res opposite is ab ovo
Elements of fiction
Found in novellas, novels, short stories, epics; the way all the motifs are connected.
Narrative technique depends on author, usually third person, sometimes first.
Author can speak for himself: persona/mask is used for controversial issues;
narrator is more complicated does not always express writers feelings and views.
It can be built around an event, character, motif usually chronological sequence of
events. It can be interrupted by descriptions, flashbacks, episodes Based on the
way story is presented:


Chain novel happening in a sequence, events lead to a certain ending

Circular novel frame story, or a framework, encircles all events and
characters; Wuthering heights
Parallel novel two parallel stories running at the same time; Mrs. Dallaway

It gives significant background information; design, plan, scheme, pattern of events

and relation between them; not as important for short stories as it is for novels.
Types of plot are: plot of action change in situation; plot of character change in
character; plot of thoughts. It can also be simple, episodic(picaresque novels) and
It is additional action which is parallel to the main plot and has the same theme;
usually found in parallel novels. It serves to emphasize the idea, or contrast it. It can
have its own set of characters.
Its a subject matter of the novel, gives a single meaning to the story.
Its the point of the work, what author wanted to say, connected to theme.
Its smallest unit of theme, in which a single object, character or the situation is
described. Motif can be static does not move narrative forward, or dynamic
moves action. Leit Motif keeps popping up through the whole story, reappears
throughout the work.
Types of characterization:

Direct directly from author/narrator; indirect based on characters actions,

what others say about them.
Realistic, satirical, humorous, allegorical, idealistic, ironic
Simple/flat no change; complex/round variety of features, changes
Typical, individualized

Point of View
Its perspective from which the story is told, position of the narrator within the story.

Omniscient outside of the story, usually author himself, knows everything,

characters are his puppets
First person story told by a character who participates in the events/Ich
Third person told by a witness/Er form
Multiple several characters tall about the same events from their

Stream of consciousness no narrator, modern technique

Unreliable narrator
Engaged narrator
Self-conscious narrator auto-reflexive literature

Language and style

Formal long, elaborate sentences, Victorian novels, extensive vocabulary,

neutral tone, objective
Informal colloquial, modern novels, directness, more realistic
Simple style simple and short sentences, but not simple themes
Complex style long sentences
Mid-style in between the two previous, XIX century novel

Language and style can change throughout the work. Language can vary
characters education.
Aspects cognitive(appealing to the readers mind) and affective(appealing to the
readers emotions)
How structural elements are arranged in the novel, usually into chapters. Chapters
can mark the development of the story, or are numbered, like titles. It rests on
chronological order, reversed time and framework.
Types of novels
According to authors attitude and tone
Sentimental novel: distress of a very virtuous character who is properly rewarded in
the end, Pamela.
Humorous novel: intended to amuse the audience, for example, picaresque novel,
Tom Sawyer.
Satirical novel: makes fun of society and individuals, their issues, vices and follies;
can be humorous but it is not intended to amuse, Gullivers Travels.
Didactic novel: it gives moral instructions; Sir Charles Grandison, Scarlet letter.
According to the type of narration, pov, composition/structure
First/third person narration: Ich/Er-form;

Epistolary novel is written in first person, composed of sequence of letters

Diary is usually non-fiction, but is also in form of a novel
Chronicle novel bildungsroman/formation novel, David Copperfield, Tom
Jones; Roman cycle/series of interconnected stories which can be read
together or by themselves, Foundation Series, Alex Cross; Biography is
written in third person singular; Autobiography is in first person; Memoir
novel, Mol Flanders.
Structural: chain, circular and parallel/Russia
Novel of time, action, space, character/Germany

According to aesthetic value/intended readership

Popular fiction is meant for a wide audience: best-sellers, pulp fiction, pot boilers,
thrillers, cloakndagger stories
Serious fiction is meant for smaller audience and requires wide knowledge of certain
Childrens literature is meant for children.
According to theme

Adventure novel: exciting events, lots of action

Romance: about Christian knights
Artist novel/Kunstleroman: subtype of formation novel, artists formation
Crime novel
Social novel: paints a picture of society
Historical novel: a fictional narrative where history is reconstructed in the
mind of the artist, Sir Walter Scott
Psychological novel
Family novel
Gothic novel: horror, supernatural, castles, graveyards, dungeons, Edgar
Allan Poes works
Thesis/sociological novel: focuses on socio-political or religious problems,
Uncle Toms Cabin
Lyric poetry

Versification according to number of stressed syllables

One foot = one stressed syllable

Monometer one foot
Dimeter two feet

Trimeter tree feet

Tetrameter four feet
Pentameter five feet
Hexameter six feet

Versification according
unstressed, / - stressed)







Iambic foot X /
Trochaic foot - / X
Anapestic foot X X /
Dactylic foot - / X X

Caesura divides a verse into two halves of approximately same length; it follows
natural speech pattern; used in OE poetry, A-S, Neoclassicism (heroic couple, Pope)
Types of rhyme

Masculine last stressed syllables rhyme

Feminine last two syllables rhyme
Triple last three syllables rhyme

Rhyme schemes

Paired aabb
Alternating abab
Interlocking abba
Spensers rhyme ababbcbcc


Couplet two verses

Terza rima three verses
Quatrain four verses
Ballad stanza abcb; combination of tetrameter and trimeter
Rhyme Royal/Chaucers stanza ababbcc; iambic pentameter/trimeter
Ottawa rima abababcc
Spensers stanza ababbcbcc
Blank verse iambic pentameter, no rhyme, can be found in renaissance
Free verse no prescribed number of feet, no rhyme; 19 thC America, Whitman


Petrarchan abba abba cdcd cd

Shakespearean abab cdcd efef gg

Figures of speech
Alliteration repetition of a consonant
Assonance repetition of a vowel
Onomatopoeia imitation of the sounds of nature
Simile comparison of two things
Antithesis contrast of two ideas expressed by parallelism of words that are
opposites of each other to err is human, to forgive divine.
Hyperbole Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of
Gradation a scale or series of successive changes, stages, or degrees.
Tautology using several different words for one thing
Irony the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal
Paradox contradiction, but something that might be true Im in hate and Im in
Oxymoron things that seem completely opposite, contradictory sweet harm,
darkness visible
Metaphor - a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or
action to which it is not literally applicable.
Conceit extended metaphor
Metonymy naming one thing after another with which it is associated

Personification - the attribution of human nature or character to animals,

inanimate objects, etc.
Poetic image painting a picture with words
Rhetorical question formed as a question but has meaning of a statement.
Combining words into a sentence to convey certain meaning using WO
Objective correlative uses a formula to indirectly express and emotion; set of
objects, scenes, symbols etc.
Allegory whole work could be an allegory, means to say something otherwise,
like metaphor
Symbol a sign that stands for something else, some are universal, and some are
individual for the writer