- After Auerbach: Ancient Greek literature as a test case of European Literary historiography
- European Review
- Volume | Issue number
- 22 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH)
In the first chapter of his celebrated Mimesis (1946) Auerbach discussed a specimen of Ancient Greek literature (Homer) both as the starting point of a European literary history of realism and as a comparandum to biblical storytelling. Both lines of approach have recently been given new impetuses. On the one hand there is Martin West's The East Face of Helicon,1 which does not merely compare early Greek literature and Near Eastern literature but describes the former as largely a product of the latter. On the other hand there is the series Studies in ancient Greek narrative, edited by Irene J.F. de Jong, which describes the early development of - what will become quintessential - European storytelling devices in Ancient Greek literature. Both scholarly projects, independently, have put the same urgent question on the agenda: how exactly are we to evaluate resemblances between ancient Greek literature and contemporary Near Eastern literature and later European literature. Can we speak of some form of historical connection, i.e. one literature taking over devices and motifs from another literature, or should we rather think in terms of typological resemblances, i.e. of the same narrative universals being employed at different places and at different times? Or is there some middle way to be found in the recent cognitive turn of comparative literature? Despite the methodological problems involved, investigating the history of European literature is an extremely rewarding task. The project of Europe as an economical and political unity has at the moment reached a critical phase. Literary scholars can contribute to this issue by showing the cultural unity of Europe, a mission that is just as urgent as it was in 1946, when Auerbach published his Mimesis.
- go to publisher's site
If you believe that digital publication of certain material infringes any of your rights or (privacy) interests, please let the Library know, stating your reasons. In case of a legitimate complaint, the Library will make the material inaccessible and/or remove it from the website. Please Ask the Library, or send a letter to: Library of the University of Amsterdam, Secretariat, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You will be contacted as soon as possible.