Mimesis by Erich Auerbach
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this book — Auerbach traces the emergence of what are generally recognized as post-modern themes back through the history of literature to the Bible and Homer. He shows how the concern with the question of the real has been taken up by authors throughout the Western tradition, and explains how the concerns of the current century are a part of that tradition. Subjectively, I feel like this one book wiped away hundreds of pages of useless shit I was required to read in college that almost made me hate literary criticism. His method is close reading, but it is close reading which is driven by a philosopher’s mind and the instincts of a lover of language. Some of the most valuable moments come when he drifts off topic – such as addressing laying literature out along an axis according to the amount of subjective distortion which is allowed the perspective of the narrator.
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