MSt c-course: Mock-Epic in Europe, 1660-1850 (Hilary Term 2012) nb this course is open to English and mml mst students



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MSt C-Course: Mock-Epic in Europe, 1660-1850 (Hilary Term 2012)
NB This course is open to English and MML MSt students
By definition, mock-epic is a form of writing that exists in relation to other languages, texts, genres, and cultures; one of its essential characteristics is a persistence in moving between periods, styles, voices, and forms (as well as from the sublime to the ridiculous). This mobility and intertextuality make it especially amenable to co-teaching across faculties. To consider the nature of mock-epic entails thinking about tradition, imitation, and originality; about heroic ideals and unheroic reality; and about the purchase of ancient on modern life—in short, about the evolution of Western literature and its relations with other cultures and literatures.

‘Mock-epic’ is a European phenomenon, a retrospective genre label which identifies similarities among contemporaneous texts written in French, Italian, German, and English. It is also the name of an ‘antigenre’: together, these texts were fuelled by a critical animus towards the tradition of serious epic represented by Homer, Virgil, and Milton. Insofar as mock-epic offers a sustained, often hostile, inquiry into epic values, it continues a process that is begun within epic itself. But rather than weigh up the choice between duty and love, mock-epic holds out the promise of an alternative set of ideals.


Please note that all the texts listed below are available in translation.
Background Reading
Ulrich Broich, The Eighteenth-Century Mock-Heroic Poem, trans. David Henry Wilson (1990)

Howard Erskine-Hill, ‘The “new world” of Pope’s Dunciad’, in Maynard Mack, ed., Essential Articles



for the Study of Alexander Pope (1964), pp.739-60

Alastair Fowler, Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes (1982)

Dustin Griffin, Regaining Paradise: Milton and the Eighteenth Century (1986)

Simon Jarvis, ‘Mock as Screen and Optic’, Critical Quarterly 46 (2004), 1-19

Douglas Knight, Pope and the Heroic Tradition (1951)

Joseph Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (1991)

Peter Morgan, The Critical Idyll: Traditional Values and the French Revolution in Goethe’s ‘Hermann

und Dorothea’ (1990)

S. S. Prawer, Heine the Tragic Satirist: A Study of the Later Poetry 1827-56 (1961)

Claude Rawson, ‘Heroic Notes: Epic Idiom. Revision and the Mock-Footnote from the Rape of the

Lock to the Dunciad’, in Alexander Pope: World and Word, ed. Howard Erskine-Hill (1998),

pp.69-110

----------, ‘Mock-Heroic and War: Swift, Pope, and Others’, in Satire and Sentiment 1660-1830 (2000)

Christopher Ricks, Milton’s Grand Style (1963 and reprinted)

----------, ‘The Poet as Heir: Dryden and Pope’, in Allusion to the Poets, pp.9-42

Pat Rogers, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Alexander Pope (2007)

Ritchie Robertson, Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine (2009)

Richard Terry, Mock-Heroic from Butler to Cowper: An English Genre and Discourse (2005)

Howard Weinbrot, Britannia’s Issue: The Rise of British Literature from Dryden to Ossian (1993)

Michael Wilding, ‘The Last of the Epics: The Rejection of the Heroic in Paradise Lost and Hudibras’,

in Harold Love, ed., Restoration Literature: Critical Approaches (1972), pp.91-120

Aubrey Williams, Pope’s Dunciad: A Study of its Meaning (1968)



Course outline
Week 1. Defining Terms: Epic, Mock-Heroic, Mock-Epic
Cotton, Scarronides (1664-5)

Boileau, Le Lutrin (1674-83)

Philips, The Splendid Shilling (1701)

Pope, ‘A Receit to make an Epick Poem’ (1713)


Week 2: Dryden and Pope
Mac Flecknoe (1682); The Dunciad (1744)
Week 3: Voltaire
La Pucelle (1755)
Week 4: Wieland or Goethe
Oberon (1780) or Hermann und Dorothea (1797)
Week 5: Byron
Don Juan (1819-24)
Week 6: Heine
Atta Troll (1847)
Dr Freya Johnston (English, St Anne’s College)

Professor Ritchie Robertson (German, Queen’s College)


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