Generally, the genre of epopee did not gain a vast popularity in the world literature, for the most part fading away with the decline of the antique period. It is hard to overestimate the significance of this genre in the ancient Greek or Latin world. At that point the epic novels often times were not even written and were hardly distinct from the drama: they could be performed at the stages as easily as they could be told. The characters of epic narratives were “walking” from one episode to another, and the reader – perhaps, we should rather call him a listener – could follow his life path in its fullest – thus, the epic novels are characterized by an unusual length, so that the most extensive life period can be observed. The thematic content of an epopee traditionally is a reflection on the great ideas of a human life and its sense; it may be a development of a historical, nationalistic or private and intimate ideas of the time; this reflection is represented through the prism of the life of the main epic character, who is often times overly positive, strong, multi-faceted, and thoughtful. Citing John Swales, Chandler claims that “the principal criterial feature that turns a collection of communicative events into a genre is some set of communicative purposes” (Chandler). Thus, with a certain degree of conditionality we can label Homer’s sequel Odysseus and Iliad as classic epic novels as the reader is exposed to numerous life obstacles of the main character of these two novels. The other examples of epopee genre could be Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, Human Comedy by Honore de Balsac, Jean Christophe by Romain Rolland, Rougon-Macquart sequence by Emile Zola, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Bear by William Faulkner's, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
The latter is considered to be an epopee for a number of reasons. Firstly, the author himself had defined it as an epic novel: the cover page of War and Peace has a sort of explaining subtitle – novel-epopee. Secondly, it meets a genre frame, because it narrates the huge historical and social shifts through the shifts in lives of different characters (the most important ones – Natasha Rostova, Pier Bezoukhov, Andrew Bolkonsky). It touches upon very general and, at some point, eternal ideas of the war and its footprint in the people’s lives, the destination of the human life. It also describes an immense scope of significant events, such as the invasion of Napoleon’s army, some notable battles and great military figures; Tolstoy depicts being of different social classes and generations – from young aristocrats to elderly peasants. But what makes War and Peace an epic novel is the extent to which Tolstoy managed to dig into the human inner world of the emotions and reflections. The struggle of feelings of an individual in the novel is quite comparable to the military battles that the characters (Andrew Bolkonsky and Pier Bezoukhov) take a part in. Bolkonsky, wounded and supine at the Austerlitz battlefield, but at the same moment experiencing the great shift of the ideas and looking at the cloudy sky with the smell of gunpowder, became a great classic epic figure in the world literature.
Chandler argues that “literary […] critics […] have regarded ‘generic’ texts […] as inferior to those which they contend are produced outside a generic framework” (Chandler). As the genre of epopee tends to include a number of other genres within a text (some romance, war narrative, historical novel, etc), like in War and Peace, the epic novels are located sort of above some traditional genres on the academic scale.