What is epic poetry and what is the purpose of it?

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The epic is a broadly defined genre of poetry, and one of the major forms of narrative literature. It retells in a continuous narrative the life and works of a heroic or mythological person or group of persons. In the West, the Iliad, the Bible, Odyssey and Nibelungenlied; and in the East, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shahnama and Epic of King Gesar are often cited as examples of the epic genre. The composition of epic poetry, or of long poems in general, has become uncommon in the Western world since the early 20th century. The term "epic" however has been recycled to refer to prose works, films, and similar works which are characterized by great length, multiple settings, large numbers of characters, or long span of time involved. As a result of this change in the use of the word, many prose works of the past may be called "epics" which were not composed or originally understood as such. The first epics are associated strongly with preliterate societies and oral ... more
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