A discussion about the book Epic Performances from the Middle Ages into the Twenty-First Century. Part of 'A Book at Lunchtime' series
This volume represents the first systematic attempt to chart the afterlife of epic in modern performance traditions, with chapters covering not only a significant chronological span, but also ranging widely across both place and genre, analysing lyric, film, dance, and opera from Europe to Asia and the Americas. What emerges most clearly is how anxieties about the ability to write epic in the early modern world, together with the ancient precedent of Greek tragedy's reworking of epic material, explain its migration to the theatre. This move, though, was not without problems, as epic encountered the barriers imposed by neo-classicists, who sought to restrict serious theatre to a narrowly defined reality that precluded its broad sweeps across time and place. In many instances in recent years, the fact that the Homeric epics were composed orally has rendered reinvention not only legitimate, but also deeply appropriate, opening up a range of forms and traditions within which epic themes and structures may be explored. Drawing on the expertise of specialists from the fields of classical studies, English and comparative literature, modern languages, music, dance, and theatre and performance studies, as well as from practitioners within the creative industries, the volume is able to offer an unprecedented modern and dynamic study of 'epic' content and form across myriad diverse performance arenas.