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.
Her run-on sentences are the mechanism for producing a distinctive reality effect. They deny, at the micro-level, any logical cohesion or narrative arc or life story, even as they are part of a retrospective narration whose end is never really in doubt.
Dated scholarship can obscure more than it describes a period like the Renaissance. Can such studies be productively read today?
"Equality or Dignity?" Christopher Warley explores the tension at the heart of Erich Auerbach's work alongside recent biographies of Derrida and Spenser.
The Spenser Review has run an issue remembering Paul Alpers, who sadly passed away last May, and I am one of the six contributors. I have a great fear (I hope I’m wrong) that Alpers is not so well known to those new to the profession of criticism. He was a giant, and is very much missed.
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)?
Last summer while travelling I read Moby Dick on my iPhone. I am now at a point in my life when, circumscribed by airline baggage weight restrictions, the choice between packing Moby Dick or an extra pair of shoes is no choice at all. So I downloaded a free version and tucked my phone in my pocket.
Can the upper class speak? There are signs that it cannot. Maybe this sounds silly, but if you are still in the market for a future for literary criticism, the accurate description of what the upper-class sounds and looks like might be a good place to start.
There have been two songs constantly on the radio at the beach in Italy this summer. The first, Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” (“Today I don’t feel like doing anything”), is so annoying that it makes you want to do something, anything, as long as it is violent.
Christopher Warley teaches Renaissance literature and Critical Theory at the University of Toronto.