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Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

Ritchie Robertson

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199571581
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722356 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571581.001.0001
Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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This is a study of a genre of poetry that flourished in English, French, and German literature from the early eighteenth to the mid‐nineteenth century. Although some of the texts discussed are canonical and familiar, the relations among them have not been noticed. There is a well‐known genre of mock‐heroic poetry which parodies epic. Mock epic differs in being written at a time when serious epic, though still a highly respected genre with many writers and readers, was also in a state of stasis or stagnation, failing to produce any acknowledged masterpiece after Paradise Lost (1667). Epic was often criticized as depending on supernatural machinery and barbarous heroic values that were unsuitable for the modern world. Mock epic therefore both satirizes the epic genre and expands its scope beyond mock heroic to address satirically a wide range of ambitious themes. It includes satire on pedantic scholarship (Pope's Dunciad), anticlerical satire (Voltaire's La Pucelle, Blumauer's travesty of the Aeneid), satire on religion (Parny's La Guerre des dieux), a liberal, but not necessarily libertine, exploration of the relation between the sexes (Wieland's Oberon, Byron's Don Juan), and the relation between Europe and its Oriental ‘other’ (Wieland and Byron again). Besides mock heroic, it draws on other literary traditions, notably the Italian romance epic (especially Ariosto), but also traditions of parody and travesty, and it foregrounds its relation to prior texts—including earlier mock epics—through an elaborate display of intertextuality. By 1847, when the last text discussed, Heine's Atta Troll, was published, the elements that composed the mock‐epic genre were dispersing, but the genre has (as the Epilogue shows) an afterlife in early twentieth‐century modernism.

Keywords: epic; mock epic; mock heroic; parody; travesty; romance epic; intertextuality

Book.  464 pages. 

Subjects: Literature

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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Epic: A Genre in Stasis? in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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Elements of Mock Epic in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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Pope's <i>Dunciad</i> and its Successors in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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Voltaire's <i>La Pucelle</i> in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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The Fairy Way of Writing: Wieland in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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Wars in Heaven: Parny's <i>La Guerre des dieux</i> in Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine

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