Don Juan and the Anti-Epic

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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