Contrary to the views of Hegelian critics, epic from its Homeric beginnings has projected a future time and future readers beyond its narrative frame. The genre does not close itself off in a heroic past. The episode of the Phaeacian banquet in the Odyssey places a utopian, technologically advanced and wealthy mercantile society side by side with its heroic world. The Phaeacians who listen to Odysseus’s wanderings and tales of Troy at their banquet figure a future, nonheroic audience for the poem itself. Subsequent imitations of this episode in major epics—the Aeneid, Orlando furioso, Os Lusíadas, Gerusalemme liberata, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost—measure a modern, critical distance, fed by science and a commercial economy, upon epic and its heroic values. The genre contains a historical dialectic of past and present from its outset.

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