Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls

Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls

by Denis Donoghue
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A TWENTIETH-CENTURY intellectual of the first rank presents the case for the nineteenth-century aesthetician whose elegant subversions delivered us to modernism. Walter Pater (1839-1894) was an obscure Oxford don until 1873, when his first book, The Renaissance, exposed his argument favoring sensation over though and, in doing so, ignited a hard, gem-like flameSee more details below

Overview

A TWENTIETH-CENTURY intellectual of the first rank presents the case for the nineteenth-century aesthetician whose elegant subversions delivered us to modernism. Walter Pater (1839-1894) was an obscure Oxford don until 1873, when his first book, The Renaissance, exposed his argument favoring sensation over though and, in doing so, ignited a hard, gem-like flame. “Say not what it is but what it makes you see—or feel” is not something Pater ever said, but it will suffice as an encapsulation of an attitude that moved the authority of a work of art from the object to the subject, subsequently outraging the defenders of perceived truth of his time and making Pater himself a figure of controversy and even ridicule.
        Substituting sensationalism for sensation and reading Pater’s claim for hedonism, or pleasures the soul might savor, as outright decadence, Pater’s detractors far outnumbered and outranked his followers (including his fellow Oxonian and most notorious devotee, Oscar Wilde). But ever since Pater has proved, at least in the high arts, the decisive victor of the revolutions he set into motion.
        Denis Donoghue presents what will stand as the premier inquiry into Walter Pater’s life and ideas: a work of compelling erudition unrivaled in intuitive and intellectual force, revealing with eloquence, charm, and abundant yet measured discourse Pater’s centrality to the entire modernist movement. “Pater is audible,” Donoghue writes, “in virtually every attentive modern writer—in Hopkins, Wilde, James, Yeats, Pound, Ford, Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Aiken, Hart Crane, Fitzgerald, Forster, Borges, Stevens.”
        Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls is both an education and an inspiration for anyone at all concerned with the changing character of latter-day Western culture. Here, without question, is a classic: a critical biography that lays open the very making of the culture that both assails and sustains us.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
The reputation of English critic and essayist Pater (1839-1894) grew after he published Studies in the History of Renaissance Art (1873), in which he advocated an appreciation of art for its intrinsic value ("Art for Art's Sake") rather than for its moral or educational content. In this prodigiously researched scholarly study of Pater's life and work, Donoghue, University Professor at New York University, argues that Pater also adjusted his prose style to aesthetic interests and, in doing so, was a precursor of modernism. According to the author, Pater's tone can be felt in the later works of Joyce, Eliot, Woolf and other major modern authors. A homosexual, Pater traveled in the same literary circles as Oscar Wilde but was not as daring or outspoken. In his books of criticism (Appreciations, 1889), Pater based his evaluations on the aesthetic experience aroused by the prose or poetic work he was critiquing. An interesting and informed contribution to literary studies.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The reputation of English critic and essayist Pater (1839-1894) grew after he published Studies in the History of Renaissance Art (1873), in which he advocated an appreciation of art for its intrinsic value (``Art for Art's Sake'') rather than for its moral or educational content. In this prodigiously researched scholarly study of Pater's life and work, Donoghue, University Professor at New York University, argues that Pater also adjusted his prose style to aesthetic interests and, in doing so, was a precursor of modernism. According to the author, Pater's tone can be felt in the later works of Joyce, Eliot, Woolf and other major modern authors. A homosexual, Pater traveled in the same literary circles as Oscar Wilde but was not as daring or outspoken. In his books of criticism (Appreciations, 1889), Pater based his evaluations on the aesthetic experience aroused by the prose or poetic work he was critiquing. An interesting and informed contribution to literary studies. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Author and critic Donoghue (The Old Moderns, LJ 3/1/94; American and English literature, New York Univ.) writes of essayist/novelist/aesthetician Walter Pater that he is audible in virtually every attentive modern writer. Donoghue believes that Pater added not new ideas but a tone to literature, a style using the ideas of other writers as the impetus for his own writing, which in turn has been misunderstood and patronized. The Pater about whom Donoghue writes never intended to dissent but rather stood aside, challenging if not interrogating the laws of culture and making readers and other writers a little less sure of themselves. Pater was physically ugly and longed not to be, a homosexual in love with male beauty and all beautiful things yet ever aware of their transience-all of which influenced his writing. The latter part of the book analyzes Pater's work and is academic in approach but at the same time intimate and highly readable. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/94.]-Robert L. Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307831576
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/08/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,032,434
File size:
2 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >