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On Counterepic: Feminist and Anti-State Interventions Into the Epic Genre


"On Counterepic: Feminist and Anti-State Interventions Into the Epic Genre" centers critical intersections of gender, the state, and the epic tradition. This dissertation looks to the work of women and non-binary people writing modern and contemporary epic poems in response to ancient epics' narratives of patriarchal statecraft and teleological narratives of conquering and dismembering the wild or uncontrollable feminine. I argue that these works constitute a radical countertradition of anti-state or anti-patriarchal epic, or what I call modern and contemporary counterepic. In an era of late capitalist market economy and raced and gendered systemic violence, counterepic poems and cross-genre poetic texts reimagine space and time in relation to race, gender, class and structural inequalities. Carefully outlining the uses and critical functions of counterepic as a genre of feminist and anti-state interventions, both within literary communities and within social movements, this dissertation clarifies tropes and repeated motifs of the counterepic genre and the complex ways in which writers of counterepic politically confront past epics' themes and ideologies and create new literary spaces of empathetic imagination and political resistance. This dissertation aims to put the ancient epic tradition and contemporary counterepics into conversation, examining a long countertradition of epics mainly by women and non-binary people within an intersectional, feminist context.

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