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Epic ( Greek επική [ποίησις] " poetry belonging to the epic "), also called narrative literature , is one of the three great genres of literature alongside drama and poetry and includes narrative literature in verse or prose form . Applied in today's linguistic usage, epic often appears in addition to other art genres, for example in epic theater , film , music , novels , stage works , television films and computer games , in which the plot unfolds a theme of greatness, dignity and heroism , similar to the one in classic epic.

Word meaning

Epik is derived from episch, which is derived from the Latin epicus or from the Greek epikós. Epic means something like speech , narration , story . Short stories , short stories and novels are the most popular and widely spread epic forms that are also reported and discussed in the media.


Until the poetics of the 18th and 19th centuries In the 19th century, the epic is a term for the art of the epic. With the increasing differentiation of epic poetry in the 18th century and the development of prose, the term epic encompasses all genres of narrative literature. The epic differs from the drama and lyric poetry by fundamental characteristics of the design , the communication and the functionality. These characteristics include:

  • narration as a characteristic form of mediation between narrator and listener or reader, with narration from the perspective of the narrator or a third character ( narrative perspective ),
  • the visualization of the event as the past or an unbound handling of time ( narrator time ),
  • the shaping of social conditions as well
  • the description of individual occurrences, experiences (also called stream of consciousness ).

For the first epic forms there are inscriptions on objects that explain the object ( epigram ) as well as the higher forms ( gnome , saying , elegy ). In the cosmogonies , theogonies and mystical doctrines of salvation , the epic takes on a more poetic content in that natural happenings are represented in personified deeds and events. This applies equally to the forms of fairy tales , sagas and legends . Until the end of the 18th century, the epic determined the characteristics of these forms.

In the transition phase from feudal to bourgeois society, the epic changed fundamentally and in Europe there was a transition from verse to prose epic, which at the beginning not infrequently found its way into the prose form as a retelling from the verse. In order to make this differentiated world tangible, new narrative forms had to emerge. That includes the novel . At the same time, due to the industrial revolution, more effective mechanisms for the distribution and production of literature emerged. This accelerated the development of literary forms, and forms such as the novella , the gloss and the short story developed .

Forms of epic

Large forms
Small forms
Shortest forms
Popular forms
Didactic forms

Colloquial use

Colloquially, the term epic is often used to indicate a particularly large extent (especially length, depth) of an action. Examples of this are statements of the form that an issue was carried out , described or represented in epic breadth , depth or length . On the one hand, the use sometimes has a critical or negative connotation and whoever uses the term epic indicates that from his point of view the action took longer than he expected or considered necessary.

On the other hand, "epic" (derived from English epic ) is used in net culture to evaluate a situation as a superlative particularly positively.

Web links

Wiktionary: Epic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Merchant: The Epic (=  The critical idiom . Band 17 ). Methuen, London 1971, ISBN 0-416-19700-0 .
  2. Duden | epic | Spelling, meaning, definition, synonyms, origin. Retrieved February 5, 2019 .