SoSe 13: S-Surveying English Literatures II: Dumb Heroes: The English Mock-Epic
Mock-Epic poetry is a very curious phenomenon that is considered to be the most genuine contribution of English classicism to literary history. It marks the transition from the classical notion of ... read more
Mock-Epic poetry is a very curious phenomenon that is considered to be the most genuine contribution of English classicism to literary history. It marks the transition from the classical notion of literature being mainly a product of the imitation of canonical authors to a modern notion of literature as being a representation of life. Very much on the brink of the rise of the novel (the narrative genre that came to replace the epos) , mock-epic poems present a last attempt at realizing the highest ranking of classical genres at a time when the ideological preconditions of the epic were not given any more. Thus, the traditional values of heroism based on the concept of honour, or the grand national idea could only be represented in the comic modes of satire and parody, whereas the classical rhetorical notions of epic style remained intact.
Centring on the distinctive figures of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, in particular, this class will approach the mock-epic against the background of classical epic and the parameters of classical rhetoric, before dealing with such fundamental literary questions as the comic modes of satire and parody. Problems of intertextuality will be looked at as well as the intricate relationship to historical reality and society within texts that refer to concrete, albeit highly insignificant and ridiculous occasions making fun of them by contrasting them with the style and values of epic heroism.
Recommended previous reading: John Dryden, "Mac Flecknoe"; Alexander Pope, "The Rape of the Locke", and "The Dunciad".