IF epics are products of an elegiac urge for touching heroic ages past, the Odyssey, that greatest nostalgic poem, cannot but be already a metatext. 2 The protagonist’s desire to return to his past, to all that Ithaca and Peneope represent, is counterpointed throughout the poem by a second desire, on the part of Telemachus and other audiences, to hear the past, a desire enacted, challenged, and, once in a while, satisfied, in scenes of elaborate design, from Phemius’ song of the Achaean nostoi (Od. 1.325–59) to the stories of Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen in Books 3 and 4, reaching a climax in Odysseus’ narrative in Book 11 about his encounters among the dead, and an anticlimax in his hurried rehash of his adventures for Penelope (23. 306–43). 3 By extension, this desire is ours as hearers of the Odyssey. To some degree, this latter desire can be identified with an audience’s needs and expectations: a poem performed without divagations would be abrupt and inartistic, completely contrary to the expansive style at which both Homer and the performers within his compositions are masters. 4 A poem about Odysseus, polutropos, is even more so in its essence diverse. Part of the fascination of the Odyssey comes from the tension between narratives performed within the poem and the course of the external plot; sometimes they conflict openly, as when Odysseus’ apologoi on Scheria delay his homecoming. Of course, only a perverse sort of nostalgia for a “primitive narrative” stripped of digressions would want to do away with the apologoi of Books 9–12. 5 A more subtle attack, however, on the texture and structure of the Odyssey is still carried 197out in some quarters these days, prompted apparently by the quest for the “primitive,” and it is this which the present paper attempts to counter, by taking seriously the metapoetic meanings of one figure in the poem, Telemachus.