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)?
You know what kids need these days? Discipline. And heroes. And I am going to try to give them some of both.
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.