Auerbach, Erich

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Auerbach, Erich

Erich Auerbach, 1892–1957, German-American philologist, literary scholar, and critic, b. Berlin, Ph.D. Univ. of Greifswald, 1921. He is known primarily for Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946, tr. 1953), one of the most influential works of literary criticism written in the 20th cent. Through the analysis of key passages in significant works, Mimesis covers Western literature from Homer and the Bible to Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. Virtually a critical history of literature in the West, the work combines philology, criticism, and history to explain the ways in which great European writers, in various cultures and genres, have perceived and portrayed the world. A German Jew, Auerbach was forced to leave his professorship at the Univ. of Marburg in 1935 for the Turkish State Univ., Istanbul (1936–47), where he wrote his masterwork. In 1947 he became a professor at Yale; he was named Sterling professor of Romance philology in 1956. Among his other books are Dante, Poet of the Secular World (1929) and Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages (1958).

See J. I. Porter, ed., Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach (2014); studies by G. Green (1982), S. Lerer (1996), and K. Konuk (2010).

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