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.

3 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode 11: Epic”
  1. I don’t know much about book learning or Jesus or whatnot…but I DO know that the proper song to be playing at the beginning of this episode was Epic by Faith No More.

    It fits into both of your themes.

    And don’t give me the “intellectual property” defense. We all know college professors are immune to intellectual property laws.

    1. And that was very nearly the song I picked–except that I don’t own it and didn’t want to buy it. All apologies.

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