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Dante: Poet of the Secular World

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  79 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Erich Auerbach’s Dante: Poet of the Secular World is an inspiring introduction to one of world’s greatest poets as well as a brilliantly argued and still provocative essay in the history of ideas. Here Auerbach, thought by many to be the greatest of twentieth-century scholar-critics, makes the seemingly paradoxical claim that it is in the poetry of Dante, supreme among rel ...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by NYRB Classics (first published 1929)
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Chris Coffman
This neglected and almost unknown work, to which we have access only thanks to the New York Review of Books' quixotic and impeccably chosen list of forgotten classics, is the most fundamental metaphysical defense of literature ever written.

And the great thing is that it is totally practical, an inspiration for the working writer. Since Plato, imaginative literature has had a bad conscience, and in English words like "fiction" don't even bother to disguise the association of imaginative literatu
I admire Auerbach's "Mimesis" more than any other work of literary criticism that comes to mind. This book contains a brief discussion of one episode in Dante's epic - quite illuminating, I think.

So I decided to read his slender volume on Dante, whom Auerbach admired more ardently than any other writer in the history of the West. A wonderful supplement to Barbara Reynold's biography of Dante.


I just finished Auerbach's book, which is a triumph of literary criticism. Auerback offers a coheren
Justin Evans
For chapters 1, 3 and the conclusion alone, I'd give this book 5 stars, but sadly 2, 4 and 5 are a little tedious. That said, it'd be a great book for anyone who's interested in Dante, but hasn't read him, and I'm probably being overly harsh on chapter 2.
Chapter one sets out Auerbach's slightly odd philosophy of literary history in a highly condensed form. The essence of this is: literature can either present human beings as human beings, a combination of body and soul; or it can present them a
Jeffrey St.
Literary critics are not generally known for their courage. Erich Auerbach is the exception. Born in Berlin to a family Jewish intellectuals, Auerbach survived the trench warfare and mustard gas raids of World War I. After the war he turned his intention to a study of Dante, a poet once conceived of as an intracably religious writer. After WW I, however, religion seemed to have no relevance to the shattered world of the new Europe. Auerbach's lucid study of the Vita Nuova and Commedia redeem Dan ...more
I haven't nodded so vigorously and so often at a book in a long time! Now I know why I have trouble explaining why I like Dante so much; it took Erich Auerbach about 150 pages to say what I try to sum up in 2 minutes. What's more, they are 150 lucid pages. He could be a little effusive at times, but I'll leave it to somebody else to fault him for that. It was exciting to read what I have often wanted to say but couldn't verbalize. Also, this was the most readable translation I've read in a while ...more
Amazing. And very difficult. Auerbach had sensitivities and insights that you find nowhere else--and he managed (later) to combine them into a complete theory of western literature. This is an early work of his (1929), but it's the best thing I've read so far in helping me try to formulate in my own mind what makes Dante unique, and an author I keep coming back to, even if only in translation.
B. Hawk
Auerbach's book gives a nice introduction to reading and thinking about Dante, especially the Divine Comedy. Less a biography than an essay on Dante's works, the book offers insight and interpretation of both the poet and his literature within the Western literary tradition. Throughout the book, Auerbach especially stresses his central thesis that Dante's work surpasses the mimetic art of previous authors (from the Classical period through the Middle Ages) in his "testimony to the reality that i ...more
Difficult and abstract, but worthwhile. Auerbach gives rather short shrift to the sheer magnitude of the Commedia by trying to reduce it to a single theory of literature, but that single theory itself holds a surprising amount of water, even though I disagreed with it in the end. Overly reductive, but a challenging, unique and worthwhile addition to the usual body of Dante criticism.
"Letto" saltando parole, righe, pagine...era troppo noioso!!!
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NYRB Classics: Dante: Poet of the Secular World, by Erich Auerbach 1 4 Oct 22, 2013 11:47AM  
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German philologist Erich Auerbach served as professor of Romance philology at Marburg University (1929-35), taught at the Turkish State University in Istanbul (1936-47), and became professor of French and Romance philology at Yale University in 1950. He published several books and many papers on Dante, Medieval Latin literature, methods of historical criticism, and the influence of Christian symbo ...more
More about Erich Auerbach...
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature Figura Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages Introduzione alla filologia romanza Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach

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“It was Plato who bridged the gap between poetry and philosophy; for, in his work, appearance, despised by his Eleatic and Sophist predecessors, became a reflected image of perfection. He set poets the task of writing philosophically, not only in the sense of giving instruction, but in the sense of striving, by the imitation of appearance, to arrive at its true essence and to show its insufficiency measured by the beauty of the Idea.” 0 likes
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