Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the literary definition of epic?

The literary definition of epic is a long narrative poem, usually featuring a heroic character, uses a lofty poetic style and formal language to further elevate the characters and events described.

Epic

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Last Updated on September 26, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 148

An epic is a long narrative poem, usually featuring a heroic character, that details impressive accomplishments or occurrences. Epic poems usually use a lofty poetic style and formal language to further elevate the characters and events described. Poems in this tradition often glorify the values of the nation or society in which they are written, and they may be concerned with myths, history, religion, or other topics. Epics have existed for thousands of years in countless cultures around the world, even preceding written language. 

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In casual usage, the word “epic” describes any long narrative text (whether prose or poetry).

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Epic derives from the Greek word epos, meaning “word, tale, speech, poem.”

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Latest answer posted December 27, 2011, 10:18 am (UTC)

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The oldest known epic is The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian text. Some novels from recent centuries have also been described as epics, such as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

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