Erich Auerbach (1892–1957), best known as the author of Mimesis: Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendländischen Literatur (1946; Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, 1953), wrote about the eighteenth-century philologist and philosopher of history Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) fifteen times over the course of his life. The translations offered here are among the earliest of these writings. These early essays on Vico refine the picture both of Auerbach himself and of the significance of his work for comparative literary studies today in important ways. First, they allow a reconsideration of the progressivist literary historical secularization thesis often claimed for Auerbach’s oeuvre writ large. Second, they display Auerbach’s early aspiration to reach “ein allgemeineres Publikum” (a more general public) through his work as a “Schriftsteller” (writer). Finally, they open a window onto the Vichian calculus upon which his assessment of the texts discussed in Mimesis may have been based. The modes of representation (Darstellung) Auerbach favored may thus be understood not as part of a restrictive canon but rather as examples of the human “Schauspiel” (drama) and fateful “Lage . . . der Menschen” (human condition) in a world whose literatures reach far beyond the European archive enshrined in Mimesis.

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