Monday, December 26, 2005

Arnold and Auerbach

Two exemplary comparative essays on the literatures of the Greeks and the Hebrews are Matthew Arnold's chapter on "Hebraism and Hellenism" in Culture and Anarchy, and the first chapter of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis.

While Arnold takes a "macro" approach, offering an overview in the context of European, and especially British, literary history, Auerbach offers a "close-up" reading of two passages, one from Genesis, the other from Homer's Odyssey. Paying careful attention to formal literary features of each passage leads Auerbach to some fascinating insights into the distinctive worlds of the ancient Greeks and Hebrews.

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