The Epic

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the epic. In his essay 'Why the novel matters', DH Lawrence argued that the novel contained all aspects of life. Perhaps better placed to make that claim is the epic. From tackling questions of identity, history, warfare, mortality and the ways of the Gods to narrating tales of magic and supernatural creatures, it was the Greek and Roman poems of Homer and Virgil that underpinned and explained the position of men in the world. And it was these narratives of heroic actions and grand deeds that were to form a template from which many future epics would be constructed from Chaucer's Troilus and Cressayde to Milton’s Paradise Lost. But who are the heroes of these epics? To what extent was the classical epic a political project, a means of creating a founding myth for empire? How did the Renaissance revive the form and how successful were writers such as Milton in rendering the Christian story an epic? And what does the novel owe to the epic?With, John Carey, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford University; Karen Edwards, Lecturer in English at Exeter University; Oliver Taplin, Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at the University of Oxford.

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 6 Feb 2003 21:30

Featured in...

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Hildegard of Bingen

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

How you helped us find a fresh way to discover our programmes.

The Matter of the North

BBC_R4_MELVYN_BRAGG_AHW-1920.jpg

Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in shaping modern Britain.

Quiz: In Our Time in 2016

James Chadwick’s neutron chamber

Can you remember what we’ve covered this year?

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.