Don Juan and the Anti-Epic

May 23, 2017 English Literature

Don Juan and the Anti-Epic
In his article ???Don Juan as Anti-Epic,??? John Lauber pits an argument against the popular opinion that Byron, in writing ???Don Juan,??? endeavored to ???reinterpret and recreate the epic form??? (607). Lauber bases his argument on Byron??™s blatant disregard and ???flippant treatment??? of neoclassical rules dictating an epic poem??™s form and function (617). Lauber labels Don Juan himself as an ???anti-hero,??? possessing no qualities of an epic hero, but rather existing in the poem as an ?????¦average man, well-meaning but weak,??? as opposed to the classic ???morally perfect??? hero (607). In writing an anti-epic, Byron created a work satirizing epic poetry as a whole. Lauber explains the ???Byronic fashion??? in which ???Don Juan??? picks apart epic poetry??™s moralistic values: ???Don Juan ??¦is secular, skeptical, relativistic, even nihilistic at times??¦ heroism and glory are illusions which can hardly exist in an age of fact. Epic poetry is a celebration of heroism, and heroism cannot exist in the world of Don Juan??? (617). Furthermore, Lauben states that the comedic form in which ???Don Juan??? is written ?????¦immediately disqualified it, in the eyes of Byron??™s contemporaries, from being considered as an epic,??? because the neoclassical critic??™s opinion considered ???wit and humor??¦to be beneath the dignity of the form.??? (615). Moralistic and sublime are two defining characteristics of the classic epic poem, two characteristics which Byron flips upside down using Juan??™s hands. ?????¦the mockery is obvious??¦ ???Don Juan??? contains the romantic, the pathetic, and even the terrible-but never the sublime.??? (616). On the whole, ???Don Juan??? represents everything an epic poem is not.
Works Cited
Lauber, John. “Don Juan as Anti-Epic.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 8.4 (1968): 607-19. JSTOR. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.


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