Odysseus’ Scar. AUTHOR: Erich Auerbach. SOURCE: Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western. Literature. PUBLISHER: Princeton University Press. The Homeric Style, “Odysseus’ Scar” Erich Auerbach, Mimesis. Note, for example, that Homer can never let us be in doubt about anything involving Odysseus. By far the most frequently reprinted chapter is chapter one, “Odysseus’ Scar,” in which Auerbach compares the.

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He travels for three days to the place where he is to kill his son, but details of the journey and his state of mind are absent. But any such subjectivistic-perspectivistic procedure, creating a foreground and background, resulting in the present lying open to the depths of the past, is entirely foreign to the Homeric style; auervach Homeric style knows only a foreground, only a uniformly illuminated, uniformly objective present.

The Homeric poems present a definite complex of events whose boundaries in space and time are clearly delimited; before it, beside it, and after it, other complexes of events, which do not depend upon it, can be conceived without conflict and without difficulty. As a result of this claim to absolute authority, the method of interpretation spread to traditions other than the Jewish.

The two styles, in their opposition, represent basic types: Their structure is different. The rise of Christianity enshrined this dual understanding of reality in auerhach consciousness of the West.

This article includes a list of referencesrelated reading or external linksbut its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Thus while, on the one hand, the reality of the Old Testament presents itself as complete truth with a claim to sole authority, on the other hand that very claim forces it to a constant interpretative change in its own content; for millennia it undergoes an incessant and active development with the life of man in Europe.

It was precisely the Christian idea of the indestructibility of the entire human individual which made this possible for Dante. By this example of the contrary, we see the significance of the descriptive adjectives and digressions of the Homeric poems; with their indications of the earlier and as it were absolute existence of the persons described, they prevent the reader from concentrating exclusively on a present crisis; even when the oysseus terrible things are occurring, they prevent the establishment of an overwhelming suspense.

Each of the great figures of the Old Testament, from Adam to the prophets, embodies a moment of this vertical connection.

Auerbach reserves some of his strongest language to describe this imposition and draw the contrast in the sharpest of terms:. Unsurprisingly, much of the criticism of this essay has come from classicists, many of them finding Auerbach’s reading of The Odyssey overly simplistic.


We have compared these two texts, and, with them, the two kinds of style they embody, in order to reach a starting point for an investigation into the literary representation of reality in European culture.

At this point in the narrative, there is a long digression that explains how Odysseus came to have the scar a hunting accident and how Euryclea is aware of this because she has known him since he was young.

The death of Jesus upsets this classical order because it was a traumatic event of cosmic significance, yet at the same time it was something that happened to an obscure Jewish tradesman and his small band of ragged followers on the margins of a mighty empire.

To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats. Unsurprisingly, much of the criticism of this essay has come from classicistsmany of them finding Auerbach’s reading of The Odyssey overly simplistic. As I have repeatedly emphasised, both figures are part of the ongoing flow of historical life. Every character the poet encounters on his otherworldly journey occupies a fixed position in a universal scheme that exists beyond time. Unlike Homer’s style, in which everything is clarified, the Elohist leaves unsaid any detail that does not pertain to the story’s purpose.

After participating as a combatant in World War Ihe earned a doctorate in and inbecame a member of the philology faculty at the University of Marburg, publishing a well-received study entitled, Dante: Paul and the Church Fathers reinterpreted the entire Jewish tradition as auerrbach succession of figures prognosticating the appearance of Christ, and odyssrus the Roman Empire its proper place in the divine plan of salvation. This was for a long time comparatively easy; as late as the European Middle Ages it was possible to represent Biblical ercih as ordinary phenomena of contemporary life, the methods of interpretation themselves forming the basis for such a treatment.

Where are the two speakers? Auerbach, who was Jewish, was trained in the German philological tradition and would eventually become, along with Leo Spitzer, one of its best-known scholars.

Indeed, we must go even further. Auerbach’s work, like the Formalists and the New Critics, helped to change the face of literary criticismfocusing the critical endeavor on a close reading and scrutiny of texts and how they came into existence, rather than the author’s psychology or the contemporaneous historical and social issues addressed by the text.

In placing the practice of philology at the centre of the humanities, he conceives of the humanities as an area of inquiry dedicated to the possibility of genuine historical — and by extension cross-cultural — understanding.


Erich Auerbach

His best-known work is Mimesis: And it was precisely by producing this effect with such power and so much realism that he opened the way for that aspiration toward autonomy which possesses all earthly existence. For how is the Jewish concept of God to be explained?

Imitation of reality is imitation of the sensory experience of life on earth — among the most essential characteristics of which would seem to be its possessing a history, its changing and developing.

Although he acknowledged that both works exercised an enormous influence over subsequent Western literatureAuerbach held that the true motivation behind the representations of reality in both the Bible and the Odyssey lay within and without aesthetic considerations. Auerbach notes here the clarity and orderliness of Homer’s verse, as well as the tidy comparative, causal, and temporal relationships articulated by Homer’s precise syntactical constructions.

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. That he had some compelling historical reasons of his own for seeking, in the teeth of facts, some sort of order from the chaos and brutality of history hardly needs emphasising.

Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, generally considered his masterwork. On the one hand, externalized, uniformly illuminated phenomena, at a definite time and in a definite place, connected together odysweus lacunae in a perpetual foreground; thoughts and feeling completely expressed; events taking place in leisurely fashion and with very little of suspense.

Auerbach’s Odysseus’ Scar

It is all very different in the Biblical stories. To the word scar v. The chronology and the remarkable breadth of vision are not meant to imply that Western literature has progressed in a linear erihc from naivety to sophistication. The two women express their feelings in copious direct discourse. So the long-term effect of the concept scat a divinely ordained universal history, and the antagonism between appearance and reality it engenders, is to throw us back upon the elementary fact of our worldly existence.

Poet of the Secular World.