An epic is traditionally a genre of poetry, known as epic poetry. In modern terms, epic is often extended to describing other art forms, such as epic theatre, films, music, novels, television series, and video games, wherein the story has a theme of grandeur and heroism, just as in epic poetry. Scholars argue that the epic has long since become "disembedded" from its origins in oral poetry, appearing in successive narrative media throughout history.
There are many genres of epic (exclusive of epic poetry): epic fantasy describes works of fantasy, such as in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Epic fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place. Epic fantasy is not limited to the Western tradition: for example, Arabic epic literature includes One Thousand and One Nights; and Indian epic poetry includes Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The female epic examined ways in which female authors have adapted the masculine epic tradition to express their own heroic visions. There are chivalric epics from the Middle Ages, national epics, and pan-national epics. The real-life stories of heroic figures have also been referred to as being epic; examples include Ernest Shackleton's exploration adventures in Antarctica.