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eliot / auerbach

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Very strange, and not at all sure what to do with this yet. Might just be a false echo… But as I’ve indicated on here before, I’ve long been fascinated by the final paragraph of Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis. Namely…

Beneath the conflicts, an economic and cultural levelling process is taking place. It is still a long way to a common life of mankind on earth, but the goal begins to be visible. 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. So the complicated process of dissolution which led to fragmentation of the exterior action, to reflection of consciousness, and to stratification of time seems to be tending toward a very simple solution. Perhaps it will be too simple to please those who, despite all its dangers and catastrophes, admire and love our epoch for the sake of its abundance of life and the incomparable historical vantage point which it affords. But they are few in number, and probably they will not live to see much more than the first forewarnings of the approaching unification and simplification.

I discuss it, for instance, in a (strange, wandering) post here. At any rate, I’ve been getting ready to give a lecture today on T.S. Eliot’s essays, and found the following in his 1921 piece The Metaphysical Poets. 

We can only say that it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.

The play of simplicity vs. difficulty (and the gap of a few very important decades) does make me wonder whether there’s a responsive echo going on in Auerbach. Something to look into… (If only there was a good Auerbach biography in English!) What makes it more interesting, perhaps, is that arch-small-c-conservative Eliot is in the midst of laying out his theory of the “dissociation of sensibility” that somehow happened after the seventeenth century (hmmm) while – if very obliquely – Auerbach seems to be suggesting a sort of “re-association of sensibility” in the aftermath of modernism…

More soon if I can find a way / get a chance to look into this further…

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February 9, 2014 at 1:53 pm

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  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Auerbach

    Bakker, Egbert. “Mimesis as Performance: Rereading Auerbach’s First Chapter.” Poetics Today 20.1 (1999): 11-26.
    Baldick, Chris. “Realism.” Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. 184.
    Bremmer, Jan. “Erich Auerbach and His Mimesis.” Poetics Today 20.1 (1999): 3-10.
    Calin, William. “Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis – ’Tis Fifty Years Since: A Reassessment.” Style 33.3 (1999): 463-474.
    Doran, Robert. “Literary History and the Sublime in Erich Auerbach´s Mimesis.” New Literary History 38.2 (2007): 353-369.
    Doran, Robert. “Erich Auerbach’s Humanism and the Criticism of the Future.” Moderna : semestrale di teoria e critica della letteratura 11.1/2 (2009): 31-39.
    Green, Geoffrey. “Erich Auerbach.” Literary Criticism & the Structures of History: Erich Auerbach & Leo Spitzer. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.
    Holmes, Jonathan, and Streete, Adrian, eds. Refiguring Mimesis: Representation in Early Modern Literature. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2005.
    Holquist, Michael. “Erich Auerbach and the Fate of Philology Today.” Poetics Today 20.1 (1999): 77-91.
    Konuk, Kader. East West Mimesis: Auerbach in Turkey. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010.
    Landauer, Carl. “Mimesis and Erich Auerbach’s Self-Mythologizing.” German Studies Review 11.1 (1988): 83-96.
    Lerer, Seth, Literary History and the Challenge of Philology: The Legacy of Erich Auerbach. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
    Lerer, Seth (2005). “Auerbach, Erich”. Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (2 ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press.
    Nuttall, A. D. “New Impressions V: Auerbach’s Mimesis.” Essays in Criticism 54.1 (2004): 60-74.
    Porter, James I. “Erich Auerbach and the Judaizing of Philology.” Critical Inquiry 35 (2008): 115-47

    Mike Roloff

    February 9, 2014 at 3:38 pm


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