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By John Miles Foley

"For people who find themselves drawn to Greek and Roman epic, the ebook is a treasure-house of perfect variety.... The editor and the writer either deserve compliment for a truly positive volume." (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society)

"Blackwell's better half to old Epic does simply what the name indicates: it accompanies readers on trips of exploration during this large (in each experience) box. simply as importantly, the significant other will express new readers why they may are looking to immerse themselves in those poems.... the various highlights during this better half show the price of asking students to put in writing for non-specialists. That exercise presents a stimulus for brand new degrees of concentration and readability; even rules and fabrics which may be wide-spread turn into clean back after they are awarded in such succinct distillations." (Bryn Mawr Classical evaluation)

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For example, the mvet narrations of the Fang (southern Cameroon, Gabon) recount episodic struggles between two clans, a mortal and immortal. There is no central protagonist; magical elements abound, along with romance or folktale motifs. Yet the night-long narrations function like other Central African epics to address the society’s abiding concerns. Their human quest stories are simply a strand in a much larger tapestry of cosmic issues: how plants, animals, and social hierarchies came to be.

The Sanskrit (as it is now spelled) language is indeed of a wonderful structure, though linguists now understand that the formal architecture of each and every tongue is entirely suited to expressing all that needs to be expressed. There can, in other words, be no yardstick for measuring perfection or copiousness or exquisite refinement, for all human languages are manifestations of a single very real, but biologically still very mysterious, underlying Human Language. From this point of view, which took hold only toward the end of the twentieth century, Sanskrit is certainly like Greek and like Latin but also, for that matter, like Swahili and Xhosa and Chinese: all are forms of one and the same thing, Language (with a capital L), arguably the principal characteristic that separates humans from all other species.

He describes only partially ‘‘tragedy’’ or ‘‘epic’’ before taking up the best way of making both. For the latter, this means that Homeric poetry eclipses any discussion of the genre as a whole, for Homer is judged best, by Aristotle, given his use of diction and ‘‘thought’’ (dianoia), of focused plots, and of plausible fictions (see Poetics 1459a17–1460a19). In short, Homeric poetry is best because it most closely approaches tragic drama. We have dwelt on Aristotle’s treatise because, consciously or not, every writer and critic of western epic since the fourth century B C E has been influenced by its choices and assumptions.

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