Narrative Poetry - Annapolis High School

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Beowulf
An Epic Poem
Narrative Poetry
Narrative poetry: poetry that tells a story
• Epic poetry: a long narrative poem presenting
characters of high position (heroic characters) in a
series of adventures glorifying the race they
represent. The series of adventures forms an organic
whole through their relation to a central character of
heroic proportions. The epic is characteristically
dignified, elevated, and unusually formal in tone.
Conventions of Poetry:
• Epic poetry:
•begins “in medias res”
–or “in the middle of things”
•invocation of the muse
•statement of epic purpose
•descriptions of warfare and battle
•use of the supernatural
Two kinds of Epic poetry
• Folk Epic: is so named because it deals with
tradition closely associated with the people or “folk”
for whom it was written (or told) and whose belief it
commanded. Examples: The Iliad, The Odyssey,
Beowulf.
• Art Epic: Distinctly the work of one single writer, it
is supposed to be more sophisticated, more highly
idealized, and more consciously moral in purpose
than is the folk epic whose form it imitates. The
events he/she narrates are in the more remote past.
Characteristics of Anglo-Saxons
• pessimistic view of life
–very serious and practical people
•
•
•
•
believed in fate
were pagans
“love of glory” was life motto
allegiance to king/lord
Characteristics of Anglo-Saxons (cont.)
• honored the truth
– repression of sentiment
• open-handed hospitality
Other terms to know...
• kenning: a compound metaphorical name
for something that replaces a concrete noun.
(water street = river)
• wyrd or weird: fate or destiny
• caesura: a natural pause or break in a line
of poetry.
Other terms to know...
• stock epithet: adjectives used to describe
specific traits.
• fatalism: belief that all things are
submissive to fate.
• The Anglo-Saxons were a society full of
bleak fatalism.
Why do we read Beowulf?
• Beowulf is both the first English literary
masterpiece and one of the earliest
European epics written in the vernacular, or
native language, instead of literary Latin.
• The vernacular is Old English, but current
trends in language suggest that it would be
Archaic English.
Various representations of Beowulf...
Homework / Classwork
• Read pages: 30-31
• Read pages: 28-29
– Define: stock epithet
– Know all characteristics of an epic (pg. 29)
– Take notes on the backside of the handout, and
be ready for quiz regarding this information,
and information covered in class today! 

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