Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach

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Overview

"Even the most enthusiastic readers of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis will be surprised by the extent to which this collection of essays changes the appreciation of Auerbach's work. Shifting from the New Critical fluency of his historical readings, these selections pay closer attention to the relation between forms of language and the transformation of the world through human thought and behavior. This revelatory book presents a new view of Auerbach, whose work gains in philosophical pertinence and complexity."—Hans ...

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Overview

"Even the most enthusiastic readers of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis will be surprised by the extent to which this collection of essays changes the appreciation of Auerbach's work. Shifting from the New Critical fluency of his historical readings, these selections pay closer attention to the relation between forms of language and the transformation of the world through human thought and behavior. This revelatory book presents a new view of Auerbach, whose work gains in philosophical pertinence and complexity."—Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University

"At last, a book that exposes the audacity of Auerbach's philosophical anthropology. Thanks to her deep understanding of the nuances of German, Jane Newman skillfully captures the intricate rhythms and verbal creativity of Auerbach's prose. James Porter, meanwhile, shows us the hidden genius of Auerbach as a thinker who reveals the beauty and terror of history and the people who make it."—Stephen G. Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, Johns Hopkins University

"The brilliant, innovative, and eminently sophisticated essays in this vitally important and long-overdue book demonstrate not only the breadth of Auerbach's erudition, but also the continued relevance of his work for literary scholars today. A stunning achievement."—John Hamilton, Harvard University

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
The 20 essays collected here—many of them translated from the German for the first time—bear out editor Porter’s contention that Auerbach (1892–1957), best known for his literary study Mimesis, was one of the 20th century’s great literary critics. Though themes range from the study of “passion” as a concept in world literature to appreciations of Proust, Rousseau, and Montaigne, two areas of special interest dominate this collection: the theories of 18th-century philologist Giambattista Vico regarding primitive humans and the origins of our culture; and the concept of figuration (elaborated in the lengthy essay “Figura”), especially as it pertains to the work of Dante. In “Vico and Herder,” Auerbach discusses how “primitive humans created their lives as a form of poetry” that acknowledged the gods and their handiwork, and how the rites and ceremonies they instituted to placate those gods gave rise to the customs and laws that have shaped our civilization since. In “Typological Symbolism in Medieval Literature,” Auerbach shows how Dante, in his Divine Comedy, deploys a figurative or typological interpretation of events in the Bible as prefigurations or recapitulations that reflect history’s “providential design.” Auerbach packs his dense prose with literary and philosophical references that show his formidable scholarship, which sometimes makes the reading slow-going. Those well-versed in comparative literature will find his insights stimulating. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"The 20 essays collected here—many of them translated from the German for the first time—bear out editor Porter's contention that Auerbach (1892-1957), best known for his literary study Mimesis, was one of the 20th century's great literary critics. . . . Those well-versed in comparative literature will find his insights stimulating."—Publishers Weekly

"Editor Porter purposefully organizes Auerbach's writings . . . in order to sketch a historical panorama of erudite language to predictions for future literary invention. He skillfully accomplishes these goals by drawing out examples of Auerbach's writing focused on humans and their language as earthly (irdisch) artifacts, each created with a historical perspective, not just as poetic language steeped in spiritual motifs alone. . . . [S]uited for literary theorists writing from disparate paradigms and for most scholars from the humanities engaged in granularly close readings pursuing the understanding of writing as one of many human creations."—Library Journal

"For scholar and non-academic alike, this work is of extreme importance, especially given the relatively scanty number of works available on such a key figure to the development of the study of comparative literature."—Lois Henderson, BookPleasures.com

"This collection will be invaluable to anyone studying literary theory, historiography, or cultural studies."—Choice

"The publication of Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach provides an excellent opportunity to witness a master philologist at work."—Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard

"[A] career-spanning collection that includes several essays which are appearing in English for the first time. . . . [E]xcellent introduction. . . . One of the most valuable aspects of this volume is that these essays set out . . . the extent of Auerbach's intellectual debt to Vico, whom he credits as the first methodical theorist of history. . . . The densely written, subtle essays towards the end of Time, Literature, and History . . . are models of careful scholarly contextualization and analysis."—James Ley, Sydney Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691137117
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/24/2013
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 322,522
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

James I. Porter is professor of classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine. His books include "Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future" and "The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece". Jane O. Newman is professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine. Her books include "The Intervention of Philology" and "Benjamin's Library".

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments James I. Porter vii
Introduction James I. Porter ix
Translator's Note Jane O. Newman xlvii

Part I. History and the Philosophy of History: Vico, Herder, and Hegel
1. Vico's Contribution to Literary Criticism (1958) 3
2. Vico and Herder (1932) 11
3. Giambattista Vico and the Idea of Philology (1936) 24
4. Vico and Aesthetic Historism (1948) 36
5. Vico and the National Spirit (1955) 46
6. The Idea of the National Spirit as the Source of the Modern Humanities (ca. 1955) 56
Part II. Time and Temporality in Literature
7. Figura (1938) 65
8. Typological Symbolism in Medieval Literature (1952) 114
9. On the Anniversary Celebration of Dante (1921) 121
10. Dante and Vergil (1931) 124
11. The Discovery of Dante by Romanticism (1929) 134
12. Romanticism and Realism (1933) 144
13. Marcel Proust and the Novel of Lost Time (1927) 157
Part III. Passionate Subjects, from the Bible to Secular Modernity
14. Passio as Passion (1941) 165
15. The Three Traits of Dante's Poetry (1948) 188
16. Montaigne the Writer (1932) 200
17. On Pascal's Political Theory (1941) 215
18. Racine and the Passions (1927) 236
19. On Rousseau's Place in History (1932) 246
20. The Philology of World Literature (1952) 253

Appendix: Sources for Translated Citations Jane O. Newman 267
Bibliographical Overview James I. Porter 271
Index 277

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  • Posted March 12, 2014

    Of this collection of twenty essays by the German founder of com

    Of this collection of twenty essays by the German founder of comparative literature, spanning his entire career, twelve have never before appeared in English, and one is published here for the very first time. The main purpose behind this volume is to make Auerbach’s writings more generally available to English-speaking audiences. With this intent in mind, James I. Porter, professor of classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine presents a profound and deeply insightful introduction to the life, work and importance of Auerbach, within the context of the time and place within which, and where, he wrote. Of great importance to his work was the fact that he was a displaced Jewish person in exile, having escaped the National Socialist regime in the country of his birth, and having taken up an academic appointment in Istanbul, at the time of his writing of his greatest work, and that for which he is the most renowned, namely Mimesis. 
    The significance of these essays is that they both foreshadow, and follow on from, the above-mentioned text, so that they comprehensively reflect Auerbach’s development as a thinker and philosopher. The focus throughout the essays included here is on the linkage between different forms of language, and on the transformation of the Western world by means of human intellectual conception, perception, and action. Rather than arranging the essays chronologically, Porter has opted for organizing them into three main themes: history and the philosophy of history: Vico, Herder, and Hegel; time and temporality in literature; and passionate subjects, from the Bible to secular modernity. Porter’s introduction likewise does great justice to the subtlety and nuances of Auerbach’s writings by pointing out how they embody and exemplify the author’s worldview, fundamental to which was his complex relationship to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, leading to his profoundly moral and ethical stance on the whole of human history.     
    Considerable care has been taken, in translation, to retain the intent and the meaning of the original work. Professor Jane O. Newman, a colleague of Porter, and the translator of these essays, who is lauded by her students in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine for her intelligence and passionate commitment to her work, spent her undergraduate years at Yale, and her postgraduate years at Princeton. She shows her intense interest in this work through the sincerity of the effort that she has put into her translation. As she states, “I have tried to capture Auerbach’s insights into the way literary texts themselves work and his methodological interventions into how we read them as accurately as possible.” While consulting some of the existing translations, when available, she has done so in such a way as to assimilate the most worthy, and to reformulate their wording and expression where she has found it desirable, and necessary, to do so.   
    For scholar and non-academic alike, this work is of extreme importance, especially given the relatively scanty number of works available on such a key figure to the development of the study of comparative literature.

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