Auerbach first draws our attention to the moment in book nineteen of the Odyssey, after Odysseus has returned in disguise from his wanderings, when the old servant woman Euryclea notices a scar on his leg and recognises him. 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. Auerbach contrasts this with the biblical story of Abraham, whom God orders to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Here we find a very different style of narrative, notable for its lack of explanatory detail. God speaks to Abraham from a contextless void.
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While the former can be various and arbitrary, multilayered in its characterization of people and events, the latter is the epitome of detailed, organized and logical storytelling informed by the rhetorical tradition. 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 within and without aesthetic considerations.
For Homer , it lay in the rhetorical tradition of the poet to "represent phenomena in a fully externalized form, visible and palpable in all their parts. Furthermore, the two works were written for very different purposes; the Odyssey , as a piece of entertainment to "make us forget our own reality for a few hours," while the Bible , as religious doctrine , to "make us fit our own life into its world.
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. By keeping the focus always on the present narrative, the "procession of phenomena" Homer presents always remains illuminated in the foreground, even as the story itself jumps back and forth between times and locations.
Conversely, what is said is always loaded with meaning, creating an effect of accumulating suspense. Auerbach contrasts this with the rhetorical style of the Odyssey , one in which "even when the most terrible things are occurring On the other hand, the Bible has everything to do with its perceived relation to truth.
The "realism" represented by the Bible is the direct consequence of this adherence to the "tyranny" of truth. Ultimately, by the time Auerbach treats his chapter on Flaubert the work comes full circle. On the other hand, characters of the Bible like Jacob and Job are irrevocably changed by the trials they undergo. History versus legend : The Odyssey is told like a legend - it is a little too convenient, too streamlined a story, and its characters are all "clearly outlined" men with "few and simple motives.
Some scholars [ who? Another argument is that Auerbach failed to take into account that the Odyssey may have been the written record of an orally told work, and that therefore the reality it represents is not the story of Odysseus , but rather the telling of the story of Odysseus. Further reading[ edit ] Ankersmit, Frank R. Auerbach and the Representation of Reality. Spring, , pp. Green, Geoffrey.
Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, Landauer, Carl. Porter, James I. Whallom, William.
Trask Princeton: The digressions [in Homer ] are not meant to keep the reader in suspense But Homer —and to this we shall have to return later—knows no background. Nor do psychological processes receive any other treatment: here too nothing must remain hidden and unexpressed. Much that is terrible takes place in the Homeric poems, but it seldom takes place wordlessly: 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. Whence does he come, whence does he call to Abraham? We are not told. He does not come, like Zeus or Poseidon , from the Aethiopians , where he has been enjoying a sacrificial feast.
Earthly happenings: Time, History, and Literature
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