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More than half a century after its translation into English,Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis remains a masterpiece of literarycriticism. A brilliant display of erud. More than half a century after its translation into English, Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis remains a masterpiece of literary criticism. A brilliant display. LibraryThing Review. User Review – nbmars – LibraryThing. This book is extremely difficult. In each chapter, Auerbach compares two texts. Usually at least one.

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It is his combination of scholarly erudition and critical astuteness which is most remarkable. His commitment to reading closely for the details that shine is something all too lost in most of today’s quickreads. Ranging over works in Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and English, Auerbach used his remarkable skills in philology and comparative literature to refute any narrow form of nationalism or chauvinism, in his own day and ours.

Related works both from the time and from modern scholarship repersentation brought into each discussion. This mixture ultimately leads to a “popular realism” seen in the religious plays and sermons of the 12th Century. I have used the way Auerbach has looked at literature and used some of his ideas to look at modern books and drama.

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature

Jameson “Written in exile, from what Auerbach called with grave irony his ‘incomparable historical vantage point,’ Mimesis is a magnificent achievement. E non dipende dal punto di vista in cui mi colloco. Oct 07, Dave rated it really liked it. It’s the only preface I know of that I wish were longer, serving as both an analysis of Auerbach and a ramework placing him in his scholarly and historical context.

I also found some of Auerbach’s interpretations to be highly speculative. Add both to Cart Add both to List. There ewstern wrote Mimesis, publishing it in German after the end of the war.

Continuing, Auerbach uses an exploration of Rabelais to develop his theme, then turning to Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Cervantes.

In each chapter, Auerbach compares two texts. Everything else that happens in the world can only be conceived as an element in this sequence; into it everything that is known about the world, or at least everything that touches upon the history of the Jews, must be fitted as an ingredient of the divine plan; and as this too became possible only by interpreting the new material as it poured in, the need for interpretation reaches out beyond the original Jewish-Israelitish realm of reality—for example to Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Roman history; interpretation in a determined direction becomes a general method of comprehending reality; the new and strange world which now comes into view and which, in the form in which it presents itself, proves to be wholly unutilizable within the Jewish religious frame, must be so interpreted that it can find a place there.


This, however, did not immediately lead to a modern sense of realistic representation, predominantly because Christianity also brought with it the concept of figuralism – the idea that every little detail to be represented stands not only for itself, but something in the future and the past, all the better to tie together universal history in a Christian framework. This essentially optimistic view of European history now appears as a defensive–and impassioned–response to the inhumanity he saw in the Third Reich.

The protagonist’s feelings, mental agility, ability to think beyond the foreground is all very well “painted” in the literature itself.

Mimesis is almost universally respected for its penetrating insights on the particular works it addresses but is frequently criticized for what is sometimes regarded as its lack of a single overarching claim.

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Explore the Home Gift Guide. It’s an undeniably dense book, but one that can be understood even if you’re not familiar with literary theory I’m definitely not and even if you haven’t read all the works he spotlights.

Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. While his text is fairly straightforward probably mostly due to the fact that he relies mostly on the primary texts, having written this while in exile in Istanbul, and not having access to critical resourceshis critical approach is not systematic—something he actually addresses.

He moves on to medieval epics from France and Germany, touching upon French romance poetry as well, before arriving at the works of Dante and Boccaccio. Displaced as he was, Auerbach produced a work of great erudition that contains no footnotes, basing his arguments instead on searching, illuminating readings of key passages from his primary texts.

Mimesis: the representation of reality in Western literature

I sure am glad I did. Erich AuerbachEdward W.

The author typically quotes a short passage in its original language, a translation follows, then a close analysis of the language, and then a discussion of the historical milieu that gave rise to the work.

Apr 24, Dayla rated it really liked it Recommends it for: But when, through too great a change in environment and through the awakening of a critical consciousness, this becomes impossible, the Biblical claim to absolute authority is jeopardized; the method of interpretation is scorned and rejected, the Biblical stories become ancient legends, and the doctrine they had contained, now dissevered from them, becomes a disembodied litwrature.


Write a customer review. Paul and the Church Fathers reinterpreted the entire Jewish tradition as a succession of figures prognosticating the appearance of Christ, and assigned the Roman Empire its proper place in the divine plan of salvation.

Like the Biblical writers whose faith in the so-called ayerbach truth of God produces an authentic expression of reality, Flaubert’s “faith in the truth of language” ch. For example, litrature discussing Genesis he talks of ‘The Elohist writes’ referring t I wish I had more time and intelligence at my disposal to fully drink from Auerbach’s well. But the whole is greater than the parts, and Auerbach’s broader goal is the representation of reality in literature, as well as the recognition of historical context.

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature by Erich Auerbach

Time, History, and Literature: Books by Erich Auerbach. One person found this helpful.

The first chapter, Odysseus’ scar, is still used by classicists today. A brilliant display of erudition, wit, and wisdom, his exploration of how great European writers from Homer to Virginia Woolf depicted reality has taught generations how to read Western literature. For me, as for many others, this hugely ambitious, wise account of the representation of reality in Western literature, at once a celebration and a lament, is one of the essential works of literary criticism.

Feb 03, Hadrian rated it it was amazing Shelves: Though Shakespeare has aristocratic tendencies in making only the most socially noble characters mimexis, he is the Cosmic Poet because of the interrelatedness of this world he creates and which renews itself with each character. For this reason, individual chapters of the book are often read independently. This summary suggests more of a romp than this long, carefully crafted, deep and thoughtful book actually represents.

The idea put forth by Auerbach is that literature is an imitation of auerbcah contemporary society from which it was spawned. Of MimesisAuerbach wrote that his “purpose is always to write history.

And it is most concretely visible now in the unprejudiced, precise, interior and exterior representation of the random moment in the lives of different people. We read a chapter a month basically and also read whichever book went along with that chapter.

The first chapter is mind-bending, in the better sense again. Oct 23, Mateo R. This was somewhat over my head.