22/23- The Gospels as an Epic Comedy

Mark Van Doren taught me a long time ago that an epic was episodic in that there were many events that filled in the space between the initial action and the final action. These  events did not so much move the action forward as take place within the environment created by the story’s parameters. From that I conclude, upon many years reflection, that epics are different from novels in this respect (as well as many other ways) because while there may be digressions and subplots in novels, much of the plot in novels is used to move the story forward. By these lights, I also conclude, “Exodus” is not an epic. It is too tightly plotted for that. It is more of what Vico would call sacred history, which means that it shows what had to happen rather than what might have happened or what in fact did happen. The Gospels are another sacred history because there too the narrators are recounting what had to have happened and did while the narrator of a novel is just along for the ride, for the telling of the tale, rather than the authoritative voice that commands belief in the inevitability of what is unfolded by a story or set of stories.

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