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Walter Pater

Walter Pater: Humanist

Richmond Crinkley
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Walter Pater
    Book Description:

    This provocative study suggests that Pater, usually thought of as a florid prose stylist and second-rate adjunct to the Esthetic Movement, is, in reality, an articulate prophet of the twentieth century. Pater's work, the book indicates, shows a consistent concern with the transmission of humanism from one generation to the next through the medium of art. The link in that transmission is the human image in a milieu -- the appearance of man as manifested in painting, sculpture, prose, poetry, or drama. Pater's fiction, as well as his criticism, strives to create a milieu, extracting both what is unique and what is constant from that milieu. His treatment of humanism has seemed introverted, bizarre, almost obsessional, but he prefigured the concerns of such writers as Joyce and Yeats, and his esthetic has become an accepted part of our mid-twentieth century intellectual structure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6257-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Renaissance
    (pp. 1-32)

    Yeats’s selection as the first modem poem of Walter Pater’s passage describing theMona Lisahas far-reaching esthetic implications.¹ Yeats notes that theMona Lisain her assimilated experience foreshadows “a philosophy, where the individual is nothing, the flux ofThe Cantosof Ezra Pound, objects without contour as inLe Chef-d’oeuvre Inconnuhuman experience no longer shut into brief lives, cut off into this place and that place ....”²

    Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Faulkner—each assimilates experience beyond the individual identity. The human figure in art, transcending its individuality, becomes for them an image summing up a full range of...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Critic of Form
    (pp. 33-68)

    Pater’s claim to a place among the greatest of modern lies in his particular understanding of form. It is hard to think of Pater as a formal critic—we are too beset by the genial essayist of many a country bibliophile's devotion, by the dreamy evocateur of literary anthologies, or by the deviant and unproductive recluse of efficient histories of criticism. But for the twentieth century, Pater may well be the most relevant of the Victorian critics. We can understand him. His concerns are our concerns. His approach to art is very much our approach and is applicable to art...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Living & the Dead
    (pp. 69-102)

    The snow that falls outside Gabriel Conroy’s window in Joyce’s “The Dead” serves several purposes. It provides a setting for the action at the end of the story. It insolates Conroy and his wife to some extent from the world around them. And it brings to Conroy’s mind the image of Michael Furey, who had, at another time and another place, died into the snow and whose renewed existence depends on the snow. When Conroy swoons, he is aware of little but the snow and the image of Michael Furey. The swoon, itself a medial state between life and death,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The House Beautiful & the Cathedral
    (pp. 103-130)

    Pater’s discussion of prose in his essay “Style” bears the proprietary impress of one who is talking about his own literary medium. Despite the sometimes defensive tone, the evangelical fervor underlying the exposition communicates Pater’s faith in his own contribution to building the House Beautiful. For Pater, prose seems the natural medium to convey modernity, modernity as characterized by complexity and “naturalism”—which are equivalent to relevatism.

    That imaginative prose should be the special and opportune art of the modern world results from two important facts about the latter: first, the chaotic variety and complexity of its interests, making the...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Hard, Gemlike Flame in Aurelian Rome
    (pp. 131-172)

    Like ‘the renaissance,’Marius the Epicureanmay be described as circular.The Renaissancebegins in medieval France with a Christianity of pagan inclinations and ends in Rome with a German critic who has made his pilgrimage to the capital of Christendom to see the pagan artifacts there.Mariusbegins with a pagan childhood full of Christian overtones and ends with an almost-Christian death of which the principal celebrated virtues are pagan.

    The two books have other similarities. Both depend on an intensity of visual imagination for their most effective realizations of their subjects. For all his bows to the tactile...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 173-184)
  10. Index
    (pp. 185-188)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-189)