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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Although he acknowledged that both works exercised an enormous influence over subsequent Western literature, Auerbach held that the true motivation behind the representations of reality in both the Bible and the Odyssey lay outside aesthetic auerabch. It raises the possibility that history may not be as Arnold Toynbee is supposed to have quipped just one damn thing after another, but something with a shape and meaning, something with an underlying coherence and purpose, something that invites comprehension on a large scale.

His ideas, which have deep intellectual roots in the German Romantic tradition, strive to be expansive and inclusive. This is perhaps the most telling paradox of his work.

Written by James Ley 15 August, Erich Auerbach November 9, – October 13, was a German philologist and comparative scholar and critic of literature. In the latter half of the essay, Auerbach switches to a point-by-point comparison of the two works:.

On the other hand, whether or not the Bible is used for its original purpose has everything to do with its perceived relation to truth. A consideration of the Elohistic text teaches us that our term is capable of a broader and deeper application. Here we find a very different style of narrative, notable for its lack of explanatory detail.

Whatever degree of freedom the imitating artist may be granted in his work, he cannot be allowed to deprive reality of this characteristic, which is its very essence. Homer remains within the legendary with all his material, whereas the material of the Old Testament comes closer and closer to history as the narrative proceeds; in the stories of David the historical report predominates.

On the other hand, some of Auerbach’s descriptions of the Biblical style, such as “tyrannical”, seem to better fit Nazism than its Jewish victims, a fact which would undermine such an analogy were Auerbach trying to make one. In it the idea is subjected to the problematic character and desperate injustice of earthly happening.

Eumaeus too, though he still remembers that he was born a freeman and indeed of a noble house he was stolen as a boyhas, not only in fact but also in his own feeling, no longer a life of his own, he is entirely involved in the life of his masters. It was at once momentous and unimportant. Sign me up for the newsletter! The King James version translates the opening as follows Genesis The poor beggar Odysseus is only masquerading, but Adam is really cast down, Jacob really a refugee, Joseph really in the pit and then a slave to be bought and sold.


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.

Odysseus’ scar (Auerbach)

From these two seminal Western texts, Auerbach builds the foundation for a unified theory of representation that spans the entire history of Western literature, including even the Modernist novelists writing at the time Auerbach began his study. He resists any such treatment; the interpretations are forced and foreign, they do not crystallize into a unified doctrine.

Evident throughout his work is a concern with the question of how we are to conceptualise and engage with history.

I shall attempt this comparison with the account of the sacrifice of Isaac, a homogeneous narrative produced by the so-called Elohist. Unlike Homer’s style, in which everything is clarified, the Elohist leaves unsaid any detail that does not pertain to the story’s purpose.

This is the source of. Another argument is that Auerbach failed to take into account that The Odyssey is a written record of an oral work, and therefore what it represents is not the story of Odysseus, but rather a telling of the story of Odysseus.

So it is with the passage before us. 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 auerbch since he was young. Odysseus on his return is exactly the same as he was when he left Ithaca two decades earlier.

As an example, he points out how, with the careful insertion of a flashback “retarding element” term coined by Goethe and Schiller into the middle of the story, Homer creates a relaxing excursion to defer suspense.

On the erichh hand, characters of the Bible like Jacob and Job are irrevocably changed by the trials they undergo.

Odysseus’ scar (Auerbach) – Wikipedia

Whence he comes, we do not know, hut the goal is clearly stated: And this is why, taking a uaerbach view and not to put too fine a point on itit took the death of Jesus before we could have Death of a Salesman.

The broadly narrated, odysseis, and subtly fashioned story of the hunt, with all its elegance and self-sufficiency, its wealth of idyllic pictures, seeks to win the reader over wholly to itself as long as he is hearing it, to make him forget what had just taken place during sar foot-washing. But they are unmistakably a sort of feudal sxar, whose men divide their lives between war, hunting, marketplace councils, and feasting, while the women supervise the maids in the house.


The digressions are not meant to keep the reader in suspense, but rather to relax the tension. Since so much in the story is dark and incomplete, and since the reader knows that God is a hidden God, his effort to interpret it constantly finds something new to feed upon.

Providence is, then, a historical fact. Yet never before has this realism been carried so far; eirch before — scarcely even in antiquity — has so much art and so much expressive power been employed to produce an almost painfully immediate impression of the earthly reality of human beings.

Erich Auerbach

Auerbach’s reputation is largely based on his seminal work, Mimesis: Homer ‘s Odyssey 8th century BC. Polyphemus talks to Odysseus; Odysseus talks to the suitors when he begins to kill them; Hector and Achilles talk at length, before battle and after; and no speech is so filled with anger or scorn that the particles which express logical and grammatical connections are lacking or out of place. The Odyssey’s heroes seem to change very little both inwardly and outwardly, even under duress.

It would be difficult, then, to imagine styles more contrasted than those of these two equally ancient and equally epic texts. A journey is made, because God has designated the place where the sacrifice is to be performed; but we are told nothing about the journey except that it took three days, and even that we are told in a mysterious way: By carefully tracing the meaning of the Latin term figura from its earliest usage, Auerbach demonstrates that initially it signified only a material object, but over time acquired additional abstracted connotations.

Porter notes in his excellent introduction to Time, History, and LiteratureAuerbach suggests that the Christian view of reality has decisively shaped our historical consciousness, that it has oriented us towards a historicised view of things, but that in doing so it has also undermined itself, creating the conditions that have allowed Western civilisation to crawl out from under its universalising claims.

The text says nothing on the subject. Such a problematic psychological situation as this is impossible for any of the Homeric heroes, whose destiny is clearly defined and who wake every morning as if it were the first day of their lives: The Bible, on the other hand, lays a “tyrannical” claim on all truth from Creation to the Last Days, and as a result is very difficult to reconcile with one’s sense of truth.