Epic and encounter : form and culture in early modern narrative poetry

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The prevailing reading of epic poetry is that it exists in a binary relationship with romance: epic, the argument goes, attempts to tell a linear and end-driven story, but is continually diverted by a romance impulse that acts upon it, derailing the narrative, fragmenting its structure, and prolonging its ending. In recent decades, this has taken on political dimension: European epics are seen as stories of victory attempting to marginalize or silence altogether the voices of the non-European vanquished that contradict the victors' vision of history, reflecting a real-life European colonialism. This dissertation offers an alternate model for reading the epic genre, arguing that epic tells not just the story of victory, but also of "encounter, " a register of indeterminacy and exploration that reflects Europe's greater awareness of and involvement in the world around it, rather than simply an incipient and in many cases largely imaginary colonialism. Reading epic in this way allows us to see as essential to the genre, rather than as subversive romance impulses, moments of ambiguity, conflicting perspectives, and both European and non-European visions of history as epic texts represent them. Likewise, it allows us to see different potential ways of organizing epic narrative, rather than attempting to separate out a "main" narrative from its supposedly dilatory and subversive elements. The dissertation begins by looking at the way that the Iliad and the Aeneid represent perspective and opposition, explore issues of ethnography and identity, and treat questions of cultural engagement and historical interpretation formally, by reorganizing and redistributing narrative structure and attention. The tools of ambiguity, multiplicity, and contradiction that these texts provide would have appealed to early modern writers whose rapidly changing and broadening world would have called them to engage in new forms of cultural exploration and analysis. Each of the dissertation's four chapters focuses on a European epic of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to see how it, diegetically and formally, deals with issues of "encounter": Luís Vaz de Camões's Os Lusíadas (1572); Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (1581); Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596); and John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667 and 1674).


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2015
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Meyers, Talya Rachel
Associated with Stanford University, Department of English.
Primary advisor Greene, Roland, 1957-
Primary advisor Orgel, Stephen
Thesis advisor Greene, Roland, 1957-
Thesis advisor Orgel, Stephen
Thesis advisor Summit, Jennifer
Advisor Summit, Jennifer


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Talya Meyers.
Note Submitted to the Department of English.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2015.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2015 by Talya Rachel Meyers

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