Humanities

Christian Existentialism and a Jewish Life: The Worlds of Erich Auerbach

John P. Birkelund Lecture

The German-Jewish literary scholar and critic Erich Auerbach (1892–1957) fled Nazi Germany in 1935, settling first in Turkey, then in the United States. Professor of comparative literature Jane O. Newman explores his readings of writers from St. Augustine through Montaigne to Virginia Woolf, setting his interpretations in conversation with the thought of his contemporaries, particularly phenomenologists and existentialists in Germany and France—both Protestant and Catholic. Newman traces Auerbach’s dialogue with these strands of thought and their European context, shedding additional light on Auerbach’s identity as an engaged intellectual in difficult times. She argues that seeing the diverse worlds out of which Auerbach’s work originally arose is crucial to understanding the complexity of his thought and its ongoing relevance in our own fraught moment. 

Christian Existentialism and a Jewish Life: The Worlds of Erich Auerbach from The American Academy in Berlin on Vimeo.