The task of literary criticism must be to make the pure epiphanies of a text as obvious as possible—to learn Auerbach’s art of simplicity.
Auerbach's command of languages have often made him seem inimitable. But they did not always come easily to him, and they were not exactly a result of training. They were a result of his temperament: his urge to learn what he needed to learn in order to write what he wanted to write.
In my house live a literary critic and a historian. They do not always get along. Aside from differing views on paint colors, dinner choices, and departure times, a regular dispute erupts concerning verb tenses: present tense or past tense? When you write about a book, do you describe its action in the present tense (Hamlet whines) or in the past tense (Hamlet whined)?
What is literary criticism, and why would anyone want to write or read it?
You know what kids need these days? Discipline. And heroes. And I am going to try to give them some of both.
Resisting Tragedy and Satire in Don Quixote
As I teach Don Quixote once again, I am struck by how difficult it is to avoid converting the book into either a tragedy or a satire. Auerbach should provide a remedy, but his discussion of the novel's "gay wisdom" does not seem to speak to students.