The Epic

Home/ The Epic
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline CoreSUS1EN2384

Semester and Year Offered: Semester II, Winter Semester 2021

Course Coordinator: Dr. Amit Singh

Email of course coordinator:amit[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/ Description:

The objective of this course is to familiarize students with the form of epic and sensitize them towards its significance in our routine lives. The epic is a living form that not only shapes our colloquial perceptions and language but also provides daily allegories for us to make sense of our surroundings. Keeping these features of the epic genre in mind, this course introduces the students to some of the significant and representative epics across different cultures and ages. This course also takes into account the gaps generally seen in the process of syllabus-making in India. In the process, one expects the students to draw parallels between these epics and the ones with which they have grown up. The course would also prepare them for some of the other courses on epic.

Course Outcomes:

Through the reading and interpretation of select texts, students will be encouraged to understand the chief characteristics of epic genre. They will also be encouraged to investigate the epic traditions that are part of their consciousness through an informed engagement with their implications. Students would be expected to understand the debates surrounding oral versus written traditions as well as the nuances of poetic sequence/ epic cycles that encompass particular moments that have shaped human history. They will also be encouraged to investigate the processes through which epics get adapted by newer media and genre. Thus, they will be acquainted with the requirements of other courses on epic, especially the ones on their retellings.

Brief Description of Modules/ Main Modules:

Module 1: Introduction- Comprising Origin and Development of Epic Tradition, Primary and Secondary Epics, Oral versus Written Traditions, Epic Cycles, and Epics in Our Times.

Module 2: The Epic of Gilgamesh- This epic that happens to be the oldest extant and decipherable text available to human civilization seems a significant point of departure for two reasons: 1) Since its discovery in the mid-19th Century, this epic has opened up new windows to literary studies otherwise confined to the Greek epics, and thus pushed the focus on epic traditions to further east, & 2) The collated cycles of Gilgamesh stories that present to us “the first tragic hero” and grapple with the issues and concerns that range from the ecological to psychological, historical to social, mundane to ethereal, ephemeral to permanent, and fears of the common men to the quest motif of great heroes. The discovery of this epic has been a defining moment in the literary word and it introduces the students of literature to significant key concepts related to the study of epics.

Module 3: The Iliad- Homer’s The Iliad based on the Poetic Sequence based on Trojan War is an indispensable text in any course on epics. Apart from its established literary merit that comprises the fascinating oral tradition reflecting the events and deeds of “great heroes” from about 1500 BC to 500 BC, it presents the “contrasts and conflicts” of the Greek World, a cultural matrix comprising different cultures and languages coupled with significant literary traditions.

Module 4: Cilappatikaram: The Tale of an Anklet- This epic introduces students to a tradition where the focus shifts from west to east as well as men to women as central agents and voices in the epic tradition. This also introduces students to the South Indian poetics and literary traditions, while substantiating how native elements, both human and non-human, form the crux of civilizational aspirations and resilience. The apotheosis of Kannagi, the heroine of this epic, introduces various gender questions significant for the students of literature.

Note: Selections from Tales from One Thousand and One Nights may also be transacted in class.


  • Atikal, Ilanko. Cilappatikaram: The Tale of an Anklet. Trans. R. Parthsarathy. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2004, Page 1-440.
  • Dawood, N. J. Trans. Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. London: Penguin, 1973, Page 7- 23, 106-112, 243-302, 372-407.
  • Dutt, Michael Madhusudan. Meghnad Badh Kavya. Trans. Clinto B. Seely New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, Page 28-81.
  • Foley, John Miles. A Companion to Ancient Epics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Page 1- 19, 196-245, 302-329, 386-396.
  • George, Andrew. Trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 2003, Page 10-208.
  • Heaney, Seamus. Trans. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2000, Page 1-102.
  • Homer. The Iliad. Trans. E. V. Rieu. London: Penguin, 2003, Page 7-479.
  • King, Katherine Callen. Ancient Epic. Malden: Wiley & Blackwell, 2009, Page 1-80, 189-192.
  • Knight, W. F. Jackson. Many-Minded Homer. Melbourne: Allwin & Unwin, 1968, Page 30-56, 156-170.
  • Konstan, David and Kurt A. Raaflaub. Epic and History. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2010, Page 1-44.
  • Pickett, Niane. Trans. Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. New Jersey: Prentice, 2006, Page 16-84.
  • Sharma, Vishnu. The Panchatantra. Trans. Patrick Olivelle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, Page IX-36, 146-159.
  • Watson, Burton and Haruo Shirane. Trans. The Tales of the Heike. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, Page 1-170.

Tentative Assessment Schedule with Details of Weightage:            



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Class test

End of June/ Early July



Mid Semester Exam

As per AUD Academic Calendar



Class Presentations

Spread throughout the Semester



End Semester Exam

As per AUD Academic Calendar


Note: The assessment pattern will be finalised in the first week of class interaction.