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EN101 Epic into Novel - Honours Variants – EN2J4/EN3J4

Module Convenor 2019-20: Dr John West (Terms 1 & 2) Dr John Gilmore (Term 3)


On this module you will read a selection of ancient and modern, European, Indian and English epics. You will learn about the transition from the epic to the novel which became the principal world-wide form of narrative from the eighteenth century onwards. You will read a selection of classic English novels and a modern African novel and will develop your skills in analysing narrative, character and style. This module will prepare you for further work on novels and long poems later in the degree.There will be a lecture and a seminar each week and you will need to hand in two pieces of formative writing. For first year students this module is assessed by one assessed commentary, one assessed essay and a two hour examination. Assessment for honours students will depend on your year of study: students in their intermediate years will be assessed by two 3500-word essays; students in their final year will be assessed by two 4500-word essays. Students are advised to read The Iliad and Middlemarch over the summer.

Lectures and Seminars 2019-20

Lectures: Thursday, 12-1pm - Lecture Hall - H.051

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a good working knowledge of two European classical epics, Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid.

2. Discuss the nature of the classical epic and trace its influence and transformations in later European literature.

3. Show knowledge of the English seventeenth-century epic Paradise Lost and of its relation both to the classical epic and to the culture and events of seventeenth-century England.

4. Show knowledge of two classic English novels and understanding of the nature of the novel and of the way in which novelists have built on and varied the traditions of the epic.

5. Show knowledge of non-Western epic and novel, of the cultural conjunctions in which they are composed and of their similarities with and differences from European epics and novels.

6. Show knowledge of the typical structures, motifs and aims of epics and novels and the way in which these are modified to accord with distinct cultural, political and religious circumstances.

7. Show some understanding of the nature of literary genres and the ways in which genres change over time and as a result of different cultural circumstances.

Texts to Buy

These are the main texts for the module for 2019-20 There may be some changes to the syllabus for 2020-21. These will be advertised by the end of Term 3. You must read all these texts complete (and the set extracts from The Mahabharata).


  • Homer, The Iliad, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Chicago UP) (ISBN 9780226470498)
  • Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. R. Fitzgerald (Everyman) (ISBN 9781857150858), and
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost (in The Norton Anthology 10th ed Vol B - 16th/Early 17th Century) (ISBN 9780393927184) (NB. You will also be using this Anthology for the Medieval to Renaissance English Literature module). Students wishing to buy a full scholarly edition of Paradise Lost are encouraged to buy Paradise Lost, ed. Alistair Fowler (Longman) (ISBN 9781405832786)


  • The Mahabharata, trans. J. D. Smith (Penguin Classics) ISBN 978-0140446814. From this text we ask you to read the Introduction and the following pages: 17-20, 28-61, 68-74, 90-102, 121-163, 214-233, 354-366, 375-389, 398-408, 419-431, 471-484, 512-524, 566-575, 583-592, 779-791.
  • Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (Penguin) (ISBN 978-0140436228) or any other modern edition
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch (Penguin) (ISBN 978-0141439549) or any other modern edition
  • Ngugi wa Thiongo, A Grain of Wheat (Penguin) (ISBN 978-0141186993)

Further reading

A detailed bibliography for the module can be found through the Library here.