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)?
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.