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The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
Erich Auerbach
Translated by Willard R. Trask
Introduction by Edward W. Said

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"[Mimesis] offers not just an eminent reading of the Western canon, but a mighty lesson on how to write. . . . I don't think a more significant or useful book of criticism has been written in the half-century since Mimesis was published. What's more, I can't imagine that anything like it will ever be written again. . . . [In] producing such a rich, strong book on how to read, Auerbach composed a virtual manual on how to write, one I've referred back to again and again since the day, almost two decades ago, when I first happened upon it."--Jim Lewis, Slate Magazine

"[T]he greatest single work of literary criticism of the 20th century. . . . [S]o suggestive, so rich in understanding and insight, so useful in teaching one how to reach more deeply and appreciatively is the book that it is difficult to believe that anyone will ever again have the intellectual resources to write another book about literature anywhere near as powerful. Written while the Nazis were marching across Europe, Mimesis is a strong reminder of the glory of Western literature, and by extension of Western civilization, and of what is at stake in the battle against those who would simplify, politicize, or otherwise degrade it."--Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard


"To describe Mimesis as a classic is to offer something of a dismissive understatement, which conveys nothing of the excitement of this book, as fresh and direct, as untechnical, as when it first appeared. To say that it constitutes virtually a history of Western literature is to omit adding that it writes that history in a way that is still new and stimulating, with nothing of the manual about it, a synchronic kind of history with which we are only just now catching up. It is also important to stress the novel relationship Auerbach establishes between sentence or syntax and narrative form; and the world-wide democratic perspective in which he framed his work which has only become visible since globalization. Mimesis is certainly one of the half dozen most important literary-critical works of the twentieth century."--Fredric R. Jameson

"Written in exile, from what Auerbach called with grave irony his 'incomparable historical vantage point,' Mimesis is a magnificent achievement. 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."--Stephen Greenblatt

"Every student of literature should know Mimesis, arguably the single greatest work of 20th-century criticism. How do writers--from Homer and Dante to Stendhal and Virginia Woolf--depict the world? To explore this question, Erich Auerbach brings to bear the authority of truly encyclopedic learning and the persuasiveness of a supple, humane literary intelligence. Yes, Mimesis is magisterial, but it is also thrilling to read, inspiring, and more relevant than ever: A masterpiece."--Michael Dirda

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File created: 11/22/2015

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