Female epic

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The female epic is a concept in literary criticism that seeks to expand generic boundaries by identifying ways in which women authors have adapted the masculine epic tradition to express their own heroic visions.

Historically, epic literature has been considered an exclusively male domain, to the extent that "epic and masculinity appear to be almost coterminous." [1] From Homer's Iliad to Milton's Paradise Lost, the epic canon has been defined by works authored by men, and the characteristic subject matter and diction of the epic have carried connotations of masculinity. Recently, however, feminist literary critics have identified a number of texts written by women which, they argue, deserve to be considered epics, as they have many of the required qualities: emphasis on heroism, nation building, religious authority, a strong quest motif, and significant length.[2] Because these texts post-date Milton's Paradise Lost – conventionally considered to be the last authentic epic in the Western tradition –[3] they are by default "modern epics". However, argue these critics, this is by no means a contradiction. The epic remains an authentic and vital literary genre, and one to which women have made valuable contributions.[4]

Poetry Epics by Women[edit]

  • H.D.'s Helen of Egypt (1961) is an American epic poem that reinvents the myths surrounding Helen, Paris, Achilles, Theseus, and other ancient Greek characters, fusing storylines with the mysteries of Egyptian hermeticism.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ Schweizer, Bernard (2006). Approaches to the Anglo and American Female Epic, 1621-1982. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 1. ISBN 0-7546-5486-9.
  2. ^ Schweizer, Bernard (2002). Rebecca West: Heroism, Rebellion, and the Female Epic. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-313-32360-7.
  3. ^ Fowler, Alastair (1985). Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Harvard University Press. p. 167.
  4. ^ Schweizer (2006), p. 6
  5. ^ "Seven of the Best Epic Poems by Female Poets". Interesting Literature. 2017-04-19. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  6. ^ Linkin, Harriet Kramer (2017-01-11), Haekel, Ralf (ed.), "22. Mary Tighe, Psyche (1805)", Handbook of British Romanticism, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, doi:10.1515/9783110376692-023, ISBN 978-3-11-037669-2
  7. ^ Buchanan, Averill. (2011). Mary Blachford Tighe : the Irish Psyche. Cambridge Scholars Pub. ISBN 978-1-4438-3430-8. OCLC 823720846.
  8. ^ Cameron, Alan (2016-01-01), "Poets and Pagans in Byzantine Egypt", Wandering Poets and Other Essays on Late Greek Literature and Philosophy, Oxford University Press, pp. 147–162, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190268947.003.0007, ISBN 978-0-19-026894-7
  9. ^ "Helen in Egypt: H. D.'s Modernist Epic". Interesting Literature. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  10. ^ Foundation, Poetry (2020-09-05). "H. D." Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  11. ^ Aldama, Frederick Luis (2020). Poets, philosophers, lovers : on the Writings of Giannina Braschi. Stavans, Ilan; O'Dwyer, Tess. Pittsburgh, Pa.: U Pittsburgh. pp. 5–15. ISBN 978-0-8229-4618-2. OCLC 1143649021.
  12. ^ Marting, Diane E. (2010). "New/Nueva York in Giannina Braschi's "Poetic Egg": Fragile Identity, Postmodernism, and Globalization". The Global South. 4 (1): 167–182. doi:10.2979/gso.2010.4.1.167. ISSN 1932-8648. JSTOR 10.2979/gso.2010.4.1.167. S2CID 144342078.
  13. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "Empire of Dreams [excerpt] by Giannina Braschi - Poems | Academy of American Poets". poets.org. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  14. ^ Carrion, Maria Mercedes. "Geography, (M)Other Tongues and the Role of Translation in Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los sueños". Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature. 20 (1).
  15. ^ Perisic, Alexandra (2019). Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press. p. 29. doi:10.26818/9780814214107. ISBN 978-0-8142-1410-7.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  16. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "The Descent of Alette ["The water" "of the river"] by Alice Notley - Poems | Academy of American Poets". poets.org. Retrieved 2020-09-15.

Further reading[edit]