Classical Culture and Society
"A Contemporary Cartoon Epic: Classical Reception and Homeric Epic in Bone by Jeff Smith"
I was interested in doing a project in the field of reception studies, since reception is one of the avenues by which Classics, the study of a time long past, becomes more relevant in today's world. I was inspired by the lecture from the Senior Classics Majors' Visiting Speaker, Brett M. Rogers, who works with reception in contemporary science fiction. I chose to write about Bone because it is a text I have loved for many years, and there has been nearly no scholarly work on it.
This thesis explores the connection between ancient epic and contemporary comics using Bone by Jeff Smith as a case study. The theoretical framework of the paper draws from reception studies to frame comparisons between Bone and ancient epic. The paper explores the genre of epic, using ancient and contemporary scholars to produce a working definition of the genre. It creates a distinction between whether works fall into the epic genre and whether works are themselves epics. Then, it compares the formal elements of Homeric epic with comics and investigates key similarities between the two media. There are five main categories that define whether a work is an epic: content (addressed in the discussion of genre), performativity, perspective, use of character types, and seriality. Finally, it applies the connections from the previous chapters to two comic adaptations of the Homeric epics, Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower and The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds. This study lays a foundation for looking at comics as epic, and thus opens up the idea of epic for a broader range of reception studies.