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How to Cite an Epic


Whether you're using American Psychological Association or Modern Language Association format, citing an epic in your paper can seem like a daunting task. Unlike other forms of literature, epics are often written in foreign languages and thus require translators. Some epics, such as "Beowulf" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," are anonymous, adding an extra layer of complexity to citation attempts. You can cite an epic in your paper by combining the rules for citing a translated work of literature with the rules for citing a poem.

MLA

Cite the epic in-text by writing the author's last name in parentheses. After the author's name, write the number of the book or canto from which you drew the information, a period and the line number you're citing. For example: Astyanax does not recognize Hector when he wears his helmet (Homer 6.556-562). If the epic doesn't use books or cantos, simply write the line number. Use Arabic numerals even if the book uses Roman numerals; for instance, if your translation of "The Inferno" says "Canto XXVII," you would write "27."

Write the title of the epic in place of the author's name if the epic is anonymous, but follow the same rules otherwise. For instance: As a descendant of Cain, Grendel is related to "monsters and elves and the walking dead,/ And also those giants who fought against God" ("Beowulf" 112-113).

Cite the epic in the Works Cited page by writing the author's last name, a comma and his first name. If he has only one name, such as Homer or Virgil, write only that name. If the epic is anonymous, do not write anything for the author. Write the italicized title of the epic followed by a period. Write "Ed." followed by the name of the editor and a period, then write "Trans." and the name of the translator, if any. Write the location of publication, a colon, the publisher, a comma, the year of publication and a period, then "Print." For instance: Beowulf. Ed. and trans. Howell D. Chickering, Jr. New York, New York: Doubleday, 1977. Print.

APA

Cite the epic in-text by writing the author's name, a comma, the year of your edition's publication, and the page you are citing in parentheses. If you mention the author's name in-text, write the year in parentheses after his name, but keep the page number at the end of the sentence. For instance: Astyanax does not recognize Hector when he wears his helmet (Homer, 1990, p. 211).

Write the title of the epic in place of the author's name if the epic is anonymous, but follow the same rules otherwise. For instance: As a descendant of Cain, Grendel is related to "monsters and elves and the walking dead,/ And also those giants who fought against God" ("Beowulf," 1977, p. 55).

Cite the epic in your References section by writing the author's last name, a comma and the author's first initial. If the author has only one name, such as Virgil or Homer, simply write the author's name. Write the year of publication in parentheses, then write the italicized title of the epic. In parentheses, write the editor's initial and last name followed by "Ed.", then the translator's initial and last name followed by "Trans." Write the location of publication, a colon and the publisher. For instance: Homer. (1990). The Iliad. (B. Knox, Ed. R. Fagles, Trans.) New York, NY: Penguin Classics.

Cite an anonymous epic following the same rules, but put the epic's italicized title before the year of publication in place of the author. For instance: Beowulf. (1977). (H.D. Chickering, Ed. and Trans.) New York, NY: Doubleday.

About the Author

A resident of the Baltimore area, Rachel Kolar has been writing since 2001. Her educational research was featured at the Maryland State Department of Education Professional Schools Development Conference in 2008. Kolar holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kenyon College and a Master of Arts in teaching from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

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