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The Differences Between Modern Literature & Epic Poetry


Epic poetry represents a kind of narrative poetry, which deals with large-scale events, heroic characters and myths. While it is technically a style that has been used by modern writers and might continue to be used, epic poetry is considered a classic approach to storytelling. A later approach, which dominated European storytelling between the 16th and 18th centuries, is modern literature. Modern literature tends to focus less on telling and more on showing.

Epic Poetry Structure

Epic poetry originated in the oral tradition, and its formal rhyme scheme made it easy to memorize and recite aloud. It tends to be structured in heroic couplets, two rhymed lines of iambic pentameter, and can be quite long. Homer’s “The Odyssey,” for example, consists of 12,000 lines. Epic poetry also features imagery and different types of figurative language, including metaphors and similes.

Modern Literature Structure

Modern literature, not to be confused with modernist literature, which lasted from 1890 to 1940, originated in Medieval literature. Dramatic monologues, a type of dramatic poetry, in which the monologue appears in a form of verse, are found in many early works of modern literature, including those of Moliere, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe. In a dramatic monologue, the speaker makes a speech in verse to the reader or the audience member, and at some critical point, reveals something crucial about himself or the story.

Epic Poetry Narration

Epic poetry often depicts significant events for a culture, such as the founding of a nation. The story is told from the perspective of the narrator, and the narrator may be an observer, the main character or an auxiliary character, but he is the one who recounts the events for the reader. Epic poetry contains many elements of narration found in other narrative styles, including characterization, plot, setting, tone, conflict and dialogue. Furthermore, like other narratives, it also has other aspects of plot including rising action, climax and resolution.

Modern Literature Narration

Because of its focus on performance, modern literature tends to have less narration and more action. In other words, it tends to be less focused on telling and more focused on showing. If a work of modern literature is a play or a dramatic monologue, it has no narrator. Instead, it has characters who both relay some aspects of the story and act out other aspects of the story. Modern literature is what led to the development of the novel. Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” published in 1605, is a parody of the chivalric romance, a style of literature popular in the medieval period. It is considered the world’s first novel.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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