The purpose of Studies in Comparative Literature is to explore literatures of various cultures and linguistic groups in comparison with one another and to compare literature with other disciplines or fields of study. First published in 1968, most volumes of the series have derived from annual comparative literature symposia founded by Wolodymyr T. Zyla under the auspices of the Interdepartmental Committee on Comparative Literature at Texas Tech. In subsequent years, the series flourished, and volumes have been devoted to the study of authors (e.g., Kafka, Camus, Shakespeare), genres (e.g., the short story, science fiction), and movements and themes (e.g., surrealism, mythology).
A volume devoted to the epic is a reasonable and valuable addition to the Studies in Comparative Literature Series. One of the oldest and most durable of genres, the epic provides a fertile field for literary scholars. Perhaps more clearly than any other genre, the epic depicts a great diversity of lands and peoples; it searches through human experiences for universal emotions and wisdom. The studies in the following pages take this scope into account, for the present contemporary reactions to the ancient epics, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey; renaissance epics, such as Milton's Paradise Lost; and representative samples of post-renaissance works. By examining the epic from a variety of critical approaches, writers in this volume offer new definitions to the ancient genre.