The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode 11: Epic

This week’s music: “Her Right Hand Rules the World,” by They Sang As They Slew, from Get Well (Northern Records, 2004). Great band, great record, great Tolkien reference.

General Introduction
– Nathan’s back, and he’s angry at us
– Another CHP ex cathedra announcement

Defining and Misdefining Epic
– Thanks, FailBlog
– That’s so random
– What’s a B-side?
– Aristotelian definition: epic as footnote to tragedy
– Unity on a grander scale

General Conventions of Epics
– What’s our favorite?
– Michial lays his cards on the table
– The descent into hell
– Why O Brother, Where Art Thou? bothers Nathan
– Epic similes
In media res

The Nationalist Aura
– C.S. Lewis objects
– The shattering of national identity in The Odyssey
– Who owns Beowulf?
– The American search for national identity
– Are The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost epics?
– Primary and secondary epics
– Why Americans are jealous

Mikhail Bakhtin’s “Epic and Novel”
– A bit on Bakhtin
– The epic as dead form
– Epic distance
– Closed-offness
– We critique Bakhtin
– Michial praises poststructuralism (gasp!)

Mock Epics and Adaptations
– Why the mock epic died
Garden State descends into hell
– Where is the Underworld in O Brother, Where Art Thou?


– Why The Dark Knight is a novel, not an epic
– The period war film
– The Tolkien-ification of the Middle Ages
– Demythologizing the epic
– Michial defends two versions of Robin Hood
– Let’s hate on Troy; or, the world-weary ennui of Achilles
– David rants about the Robert Zemeckis Beowulf
– Demythologizing the hero
– Nathan ughs the Paradise Lost movie
– Your chance to win a Christian Humanist Podcast windbreaker!

Ariosto, Ludovico. Orlando Furioso. Trans. Guido Waldman. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. Malcolm Heath. New York: Penguin, 1997.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Trans. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2001.

Butler, Samuel. Collected Works. New York: BiblioLife, 2008.

Dante. The Divine Comedy. Trans. Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Penguin, 1950. 3 volumes.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage, 1989.

Harmon, William, et al. A Handbook to Literature: Second Edition. New York: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Peter Jones. New York: Penguin, 2003.

—. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Poems and Other Writings. New York: Library of America, 2000.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York: Norton, 2004.

Pope, Alexander. Selected Poetry. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Song of Roland. Trans. Glyn S. Burgess. New York: Penguin, 1990.

Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. New York: Penguin, 1979.

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Ed. and Trans. Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume Edition. New York: Mariner, 2005.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 2008.

UPDATE: Some supplementary resources cited obliquely by David: the first as the scholarly source of the much loathed King Arthur film, the second as a reading of Beowulf sensitive to the openness of narrative speech:

Littleton, C. Scott, and Linda A. Malcor. From Scythia to Camelot : a radical reassessment of the legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail. New York : Garland, 1994.

Robinson, Fred C.  Beowulf and the appositive style. Knoxville : U of Tennessee, 1985.

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