1st Edition

The Epic World

Edited By Pamela Lothspeich Copyright 2023
    660 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Reconceptualizing the epic genre and opening it up to a world of storytelling, The Epic World makes a timely and bold intervention toward understanding the human propensity to aestheticize and normalize mass deployments of power and violence. The collection broadly considers three kinds of epic literature: conventional celebratory tales of conquest that glorify heroism, especially male heroism; anti-epics or stories of conquest from the perspectives of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the despised, and the murdered; and heroic stories utilized for imperialist or nationalist purposes.

    The Epic World illustrates global patterns of epic storytelling, such as the durability of stories tied to religious traditions and/or to peoples who have largely "stayed put"; the tendency to reimagine and retell stories in new ways over centuries; and the imbrication of epic storytelling and forms of colonialism and imperialism, especially those perpetuated and glorified by Euro-Americans over the past 500 years, resulting in unspeakable and immeasurable harms to humans, other living beings, and the planet Earth.

    The Epic World is a go-to volume for anyone interested in epic literature in a global framework. Engaging with powerful stories and ways of knowing beyond those of the predominantly white Global North, this field-shifting volume exposes the false premises of "Western civilization" and "Classics," and brings new questions and perspectives to epic studies.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables

    List of Contributors


    Note on Transliteration


    Part I. Ways of Reading Epics

    1. A Critical Race Studies Approach: Race and Racecraft in Apollonius’s Argonautica
    2. Jackie Murray

    3. A Postcolonial Studies Approach: From Fanon’s Revolutionary Literature to Glissant’s Relation
    4. Sneharika Roy

    5. An Ecocritical Approach: Early Modern English Epic Possibilities
    6. Chris Barrett

    7. An Affect Studies Approach: Reading Non-Normative Masculinities in Homer’s Iliad
    8. Melissa Mueller

    9. A Network Approach: Tracking Female Power in Seven Epic Narratives
    10. Pádraig MacCarron, Máirín MacCarron, Sílvio Dahmen, Joseph Yose, and Ralph Kenna


      Part II. A Sample of Ancient Iterations (The Beginnings - Circa 1000 CE)

    11. The Epic Bible: Authority and Identity in the Face of Adversity
    12. Shawna Dolansky and Sarah Cook

    13. Gilgamesh and Tiamat Abroad: (Mis-)Reading Mesopotamian Epic
    14. Karen Sonik

    15. (Re)Inventing an Epic: Reading the Tamil Cilappatikāram across Time
    16. Morgan J Curtis

    17. Sri Lanka’s Mahāvamòsa, The Great Chronicle
    18. Kristin Scheible

    19. The ‘Epic of the Anglo-Saxons’: The Many Cultural Streams of Beowulf
    20. María José Gómez Calderón

    21. Ecological Colonialism in Vergil’s Aeneid
    22. Laura Zientek


      Part III. Recastings and Innovations (Circa 1000-1850 CE)

    23. Sunjata Fasa and the Oral Epic Tradition of Mali
    24. Kassim Kone

    25. Osiris Reborn: The Arabic Epic of Sirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan and the Prophetic Königsnovelle
    26. Helen Blatherwick

    27. From Oghuz Khan to Exodus: Lineage, Heroism, and Migration in Oghuz Turk Tradition 
    28. Ali Aydin Karamustafa

    29. A Battle of Equals: Rustam and Isafandiar in Illustrated Manuscripts of the Shāhnāma
    30. Behrang Nabavi Nejad

    31. The "Hindu" Epics? Telling the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in Premodern South Asia
    32. Sohini Sarah Pillai

    33. Trickster as Epic Narrator in Malay Hikayat Hang Tuah
    34. Sylvia Tiwon

    35. Connecting with Ancestors: "Imported" and Indigenous Epics in Southeast Asia
      Adrian Vickers
    36. Epic Contestations: What Makes an Epic in Multi-Ethnic China?
    37. Mark Bender

    38. Whose Epic is it, Anyway? Gesar and the Myth of National Epic
    39. Natasha L. Mikles

    40. Ode to Mongolian Heroism: The Oirat Epic Jangar
    41. Chao Gejin

    42. Placation, Memorial, and History in Japan’s The Tale of the Heike and Beyond
    43. Elizabeth Oyler

    44. Guaman Poma’s Epic Letter: A Complex Salvo against Spanish Colonialism in the Andes
    45. Scotti M. Norman

    46. Human Owls and Political Sorcery in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan
    47. Martín Vega

    48. An "Epic of Sorts": Gaspar de Villagrá and His Impossible Epic of the New Mexico
    49. Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez

    50. Gender Performance and Gendered Warriors in the Albanian Epic
    51. Anna Di Lellio and Arbnora Dushi

    52. Slavic Oral-Traditional Epic in the Ottoman Ecumene
    53. Robert Romanchuk

    54. Empire and Resistance in South Slavic and Romanian Oral Epic Poetry
    55. Margaret Hiebert Beissinger


      Part IV. New Forms and Foundational Stories (Circa 1850-present)

    56. "It Shall be Ruled by Swallows": The Epic of the Zulu King Shaka
    57. Phiwokuhle Mnyandu

    58. Lithoko: Continuity, Change, and the Future of South Sotho Praise Poetry
    59. David M. M. Riep

    60. "Man Is the Center": Centripetal Power in the Malagasy Epic Tale of Ibonia
    61. Hallie Wells and Vony Ranalarimanana

    62. In Service of Authenticity: Epic in Central Africa under Colonialism

      Jonathon Repinecz
    63. Female Leadership and Nation Building: The West African Epics

      Mariam Konaté
    64. "The Return of Rome": Empire, Epic, and Twentieth-Century Italian Imperialism in Africa

      Samuel Agbamu
    65. Empire and Resistance in Kazakh Oral Epic: The Case of Sătbek Batyr
    66. Gabriel McGuire

    67. Tolstoy’s War and Peace: National Epic on Page, Stage, and Screen
    68. Julie A. Buckler

    69. Ecocriticism and Indigenous Anti-Epics of China
    70. Robin Visser

    71. Anti-Epic as National Epic: Uses and Misuses of Epic in Argentina’s Martín Fierro
    72. Nicolás Suárez

    73. To Keep the Sky from Falling: The Epic of Indigenous Environmentalism in Brazil
    74. Tracy Devine Guzmán

    75. An Epic Struggle in Mesoamerican Indigenous Literatures: Recovering Written Forms of Expression

      Arturo Arias
    76. African/American (Heroic) Epic: Lee’s Do the Right Thing as Critique, Caution, Comedy

      Gregory E. Rutledge
    77. Listening for Epic Sound and Seeing White Supremacy in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle

      Alexander Rothe



    Pamela Lothspeich is Professor of South Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research centers on the Indian epics in modern literature, theatre, and film.