Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


Dr. Russell Poole


This thesis proposes a definition of the epic genre that might transcend particular media and cultures without contradicting traditional, more limited, definitions of epic, and that would therefore remain useful as a classificatory tool. It compares three disparate works: Virgil’s Aeneid, the mediaeval Icelandic Grettis saga Asmundarsonar, and the 1996 film Star Trek: First Corttact. Begining with a synthesis drawn from literary theory from antiquity to the present, the thesis demonstrates that these three works may be considered representative of a specific kind of epic of cultural foundation. Their generic similarity stems from a comparable societal function performed by each work; it also has repercussions for the epic founder-heroes’ relationship to past and future society and to the epic narrative itself. The study concludes that the theme of the epic lineage, the interrelationship of the mytho-historical past, present, and future, is central to an understanding of the epic genre.



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