Epic, History, and Philosophy in the Renaissance

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Renaissance Society of America
contact email: 

Several prominent accounts of the end of epic attribute its demise to modernity. A society riven by contradictions cannot make epic poems. The incoherence of modernity baffles the grand aspirations of epic to tell the “tale of the tribe,” to compass an entire world and way of life in a single grand vision. That is one story of the end of epic in Western literature. The rise of natural philosophy, the disenchantment of the world and banishment of God to the gaps left by naturalistic accounts broke up the enchanted world that created epics, leaving in its wake elegiac mourning for the totality epic represented. It is not that epic did not survive modernity’s emergence, but that it did so in vestigial, attenuated forms—the mixed modes of the late Renaissance, the variations by Spenser and Camões, philosophical poetry in the mode of Lucretius—such that to write an epic after Milton was to do so under the acute sense of its impossibility. This story intimately ties the history of epic to historical periodization and prevailing narratives about modernity, including the rise of science and the emergence of disenchanting dualisms in philosophy. Epic calls from a displaced past before alienation where mind and world dwelled together, while its descendants like the novel token a new order defined by perspective, individuality, and irony in which partiality and limitation are exploited for their artistic affordances. This panel seeks papers reevaluating the pasts and futures of epic as they unfolded in Western Europe during the Renaissance. How does the genre’s morphology counter dominant stories about the rise of modernity and natural science, and the decline of enchanted worldviews? How might epic help rethink the genealogies of modernity? Potential topics include Spenser and the Romance tradition, Miltonic epic, Dante in Early Modernity, the Homeric influence, the exchange of epic around the Mediterranean world, and the afterlives of Renaissance epic in modern and contemporary poetry, from HD’s Helen of Troy, Walcott’s Omeros, to Les Murray’s Freddy Neptune.


Please send abstracts of 250 words and CV to samhus85@uw.edu.


View CFP here: https://www.rsa.org/forms/FormResponseView.asp?id=837AF1B8-E9FF-43D3-85E...