A Critique on R. J. Rees's English Literature: An Introduction for foreign students : chapter Epic
There are many reasons which is why the epic in modern literature seems to be a dying and uncultivated phenomena. Primarily, the epic deals with the great exploits, partly historical and partly legendary, of Gods and heroes. These great heroes of traditional epic poetry were once identified with their respective national cultures. For example, Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector or Odysseus represented the highest ideals of the Greek culture, while Rama, Yudhisthir and Arjuna represented the noblest ideals of the ancient Indian ethos. But since the modern age is not an age of heroism and heroes and that because nobility and grandeur have waned out from this world full of bathos, it would be anachronistic on the part of any author to present an epical hero in our times. T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land and Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountain have both tolled the death knell of heroism, divinity, love and all nobler virtues in the post war modern world which they portrayed, rightly enough, as a fragmented, hellish, insubstantial circle of spiritual vacuity and emotional drought. In such a world, the glorious ideals presented in, say Iliad or The Mahabharata would be an anathema. Modern readers would fail to identify themselves with such heroes and such literary forms. An epic without a hero or without a message of heroism is an impossibility; the modern age can not, thus, make room for an epic.
However, I personally believe that the epic is one of the most exciting and important literary forms, that can and should reach the widest possible readership. However, in the din and bustle of daily life fewer and fewer people these days read epic. This is unfortunate--so few will never experience the joy that reading such fine work can give. Reading of epic will excite these people into rediscovering this excellent source of entertainment.