English 111. Epic: From Homer to Star Wars

Instructor: Leah Whittington & Vidyan Ravinthiran
Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD

Epic is one of the most enduring and far-reaching forms of artistic expression. From the heroic poems of the ancient Near East to modern films of quest and adventure, epic speaks to the shared values and collective aspirations of cultures, peoples, and communities. Yet though its formal conventions and thematic interests endure, epic changes over time. In this course, you will study the historical and literary evolution of epic as it moves from oral verse into new genres and media, reading texts from ancient Greece and Rome alongside works of poetry, fiction, and cinema from early modern Britain, twentieth-century America, and the modern Global South. We will look at some texts in their entirety and others in extracts, focusing on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Derek Walcott’s OmerosThe Mahabharata (in prose and film versions), and George Lucas’ Star Wars, with detailed analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’s American epics on Black life, Annie Allen and In the Mecca. If issues of identity, belonging, and community have always been explored in epic, what is the place of epic in a pluralist multi-culture? What are our contemporary epics today?