Performing epic and reading homer: An aristotelian perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There are two long-recognized obstacles to dramatic performances of epic. The first is scale and the second is portrayal of the gods. This chapter argues that both these features have been important for the definition of what literature is—i.e. what is characteristic of literature as opposed to the performing arts. The first section of the chapter offers a close reading of Aristotle, because he identified scale and the gods as issues that differentiate epic from tragedy, and because his Poetics was foundational for the later development of both literary criticism and performance studies. The second section of this chapter discusses the place of Homer in relation to both literature and the performing arts—by focusing again on scale and the gods, and the history of their reception. The final section considers Simon Armitage’s versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey for the theatre and for BBC Radio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEpic Performances from the Middle Ages into the Twenty-First Century
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780198804215
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Aristotle
  • Epic cycle
  • Epic scale
  • Gods
  • Homer
  • Literary criticism
  • Performance studies
  • Poetics
  • Simon Armitage


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