chapter  11
36 Pages

A New Medium of Communication

WithFrederick Turner

Epic seems to be evoked especially when a new system of recording and retrieving information has just emerged in or been adopted in a culture, or when its implications have suddenly crossed a threshold of crisis. Epic consciously bestrides the boundary between prehistory and history, situating itself imaginatively where people as a species first began to speak; epic is a theory of the origins of language, so to speak. The oral stories start to be written down. Although the medium is not the message, it can make a big difference. Epic goes from being almost totally a temporal art - a string of spoken or chanted words, gestures, musical notes in time - to being a significantly spatial art. The birth of myth out of muteness can itself be identified with the dawning of people's consciousness of their own personal death and with the perception of the continuity of consciousness as itself a great mystery.