Epic Poetry: Engaging with Global Epic Traditions


Epic Poetry: Engaging with Global Epic Traditions for Summer 2024

Teacher: Almila Dukel

Email: underabuckmoon@gmail.com

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Title: Epic Poetry: Engaging with Global Epic Traditions

Taught by Almila Dükel

Dates: June 17–July 29 (six weeks)

Tuition: $250


Course Objectives:

When many of us hear the words “epic poem,” the first texts that come to mind are typically the works of the classical poets, hefty tomes such as The Iliad or The Aeneid. Epic poetry, however, is a poetic form far more diverse and widespread than merely a few sizable poems circulating through a small area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This course hopes to introduce students to epics beyond (but not excluding!) those of the ancient world and teach students about the underlying epic traditions and conventions that surface in epics from multiple regions of the world. By the end of this course, students will have had the opportunity to read and discuss portions of multiple world epics, think about the storytelling art embedded into epic poetry and the ways in which these techniques are still used today, consider the cross-connections between various epics, and to engage with the epic tradition through a creative project of their choice and construction at the end of the course.


Course Content:

Over the 6-week term, students will be introduced to multiple epics, going beyond the well-known classical epics and exploring less widely read epics from other parts of the world. They will learn about the beginnings of epic poetry and think about these poems from a variety of viewpoints, including literary, historical, and psychological. At the end of the course, students will complete a creative project that involves epics, which can include a recording of a performance of an already existing epic, creating the outline of a broader epic, writing a “book” from an epic or an epyllion, or any other creative way in which they feel inspired to engage with the epic tradition.

  • Week 1: What is an epic and earliest examples
  • Week 2: Ancient epics
  • Week 3: World epics
  • Week 4: Mock epics and the epyllion
  • Week 5: Contemporary epics
  • Week 6: Constructing your own epic


Who Should Register?

  • This course is mainly aimed at high school students, but anyone who enjoys and is curious about mythologies and poetry is welcome to join.
  • No prior experience or courses are required; however, cross-connections with AP English Literature make this a good supplement for students who have taken (or who plan on taking) that course.


Course Format: 

This course will run for six weeks (June 17-July 29). Students should anticipate reading 40-60 pages each week as well as participating in interactive discussion style questions throughout the week. Students will have the option to look at the reading more creatively or more analytically during these written discussions. There will also be a message from me every weekday to help guide students with their reading of and engagement with the epics, generally with an expected short reply. There will also be a Zoom session for each week of the course, which will be arranged to take place on a day when all the students will be able to attend. Days and hours are flexible, but a morning later in the week, either on Thursday or Friday, would be ideal. These live sessions will be led seminar-style, typically an hour in length. They will give students a more active opportunity to respond to and interact with each other on the week’s reading.


Course Materials:

Reading will be provided electronically. Students will be given extracts weekly from the following texts:

  • Enūma eliš
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Georgics by Virgil
  • The Metamorphoses by Ovid
  • Beowulf
  • The story of Śakuntalā from the Mahābhārata
  • Layli and Majnun by Nezami Ganjavi
  • The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
  • Catullus 64
  • Beren and Luthien by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Helen in Egypt by H.D.


Instructor Qualifications:

Almila Dükel is an alumni of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers where she was a student and TA in Maya Inspektor’s English classes. She is currently an undergraduate studying English Literature at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, where she gets to actively engage with one of her big passions, epic poetry. In the past she has led presentations for homeschoolers on prose poetry and currently works as a student writing mentor for international students. She has had her creative work recognized in a number of international contests. Her haiku have been published in several prestigious journals, with poems appearing in Modern HaikuFrogpond, and The Heron’s Nest, among others. If she is ever able to master the world’s smallest poem, she hopes to move on to the epic.


Tech Requirements:

  • Zoom will be used for the weekly live sessions. Students will need a good, high-speed internet connection.
  • Students will need a webcam and mic (computer built-in is fine). Audio and video participation in live sessions is required.
  • Students should have access to either Microsoft Word or Google Docs for their written assignments


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