Novel vs. Epic

I’ve been thinking recently about the difference between the novel and the epic, particularly since I have been doing much with the ancient Greeks and Virgil.

If you are inclined to participate in this discussion, what do you think are the differences between C. S. Lewis’ After Ten Years (not a full novel, but an excerpt of one) and Homer and Virgil? All these treat the same time period and characters, but how are they different?


Lewis on Escapism

What then is the good of—what is even the defence for—occupying our hearts with stories of what never happened and entering vicariously into feeling which we should try to avoid having in our own person? Or of fixing our inner eye earnestly on things that can never exist—on Dante’s earthly paradise, Thetis rising from the sea to comfort Achilles, Chaucer’s or Spenser’s Lady Nature, ro the Mariner’s skeleton ship? …The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves… We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. [C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism]

Seeing Through Many Eyes

“My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books…But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” [C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism]