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Walter Pater

Transparencies of Desire

Walter Pater edited by Laurel Brake, Lesley Higgins, Carolyn Williams

Publication Year: 2002

The "Conclusion" to The Renaissance advises the responsive critic to consider carefully "the various forms of intellectual activity which together make up the culture of an age." Transparencies of Desire brings together twenty-one varied, contentious, informative essays that confirm Pater's ongoing power to captivate and challenge readers. The interdisciplinary breadth of the collection demonstrates that the critical culture of Pater studies is always multifaceted--inviting diverse theoretical perspectives yet also demanding that any paradigm of analysis (feminist, new historicist, aesthetic, queer theory, formalist, biographical, Foucauldian) be tested and redefined. Scholars from five different countries reconsider Pater's career and canon, the reception of his works, the intersections of genre, gender, and aesthetics, and the implications of Pater's writings--in aesthetics, fiction, philosophy, archaeology, art history--for contemporary cultural studies.

Published by: ELT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. x-xi

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pp. xii

Publication of this book would not have been possible without the support and expertise of Robert Langenfeld, whose enthusiasm for the project has been matched only by his devotion to detail. Carolyn Williams would like to thank the staff at the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture at Rutgers University, especially


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pp. xiii

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Transparencies of Desire: An Introduction

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pp. 1-11

Pater’s own achievement is too multi-faceted, and our own disciplinary vantages accordingly too varied, to allow of any assured location—even the assurance of well-defined ambiguity.Yet the impulse to find some unifying preoccupation in current responses to his achievement, some one factor that above all others grasps the importance of Pater at the present time, is ...

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Aesthetic Conditions: Returning to Pater

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pp. 12-23

A less angry but similarly haunted poem is Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Monument.” This too reflects on its own status as aesthetic object. “It is an artifact,” she explains. “The monument’s an object.”5 Nothing more, apparently, than a pile of wooden crates in an empty landscape, this object, in the end, still aspires to be a work of art, as the last lines tell: ...

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The Entangling Dance: Pater after Marius, 1885–1891

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pp. 24-36

I have two hypotheses, both debatable: first that Pater’s later writing, like the earlier, is as much a product of the cultural and legal conditions in which he was writing, as it is of any explanation which attaches to him as an “individual” subject, such as a gravitation toward greater religious conviction in late life; and secondly that, relatively unswervingly, throughout his writing ...

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No Time for Pater: The Silenced Other of Masculinist Modernism

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pp. 37-54

But perhaps most memorably there was the zinging witticism preserved in W.B.Yeats’s memoirs: “‘I never travel anywhere [Wilde observed] without Pater’s essay on the Renaissance, . . . but the last trumpet should have sounded the moment it was written—it is the very flower of the Decadence.’ ‘But,’ said somebody, ‘would you not have given us time, Mr. Wilde, to read it?’ ‘Oh no, plenty of time afterwards in either ...

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Pater’s Reception in France: A Provisional Account

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pp. 55-62

... in this essay about Pater’s reception in France is highly provisional, and in some respects rather negative, although even the negative points are no doubt worth making all the same. I suspect that Pater’s resonance was not nearly so great in France as in the German-speaking countries. But, at the same time, even the slightest traces of (or indeed signs ...

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The Reception of Walter Pater in Germany and Austria

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pp. 63-72

... that the reception of Pater in Europe was secondary to, or mediated via, the reception of the rather more flamboyant Oscar Wilde. Certainly the two were associated, but the fullest flowering of German essays and reviews of Wilde was in 1904–1905, which post-dates the first serious interest in Pater by more than a decade. Pater’s popularity in Germany and Austria can instead, I think, be accounted for with reference ...

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Physiology, Mesmerism, and Walter Pater’s “Susceptibilities to Influence”

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pp. 73-89

In this essay, I will argue that Pater’s scientific vocabulary is appropriated from and a response to nineteenth-century discussions of the mechanisms of influence, and in particular to the debates around mesmerism and to the emerging discourse of physiology, which brought great public attention to these topics. In texts such as “The Child in the House” and ...

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Disturbing Hellenism: Walter Pater, Charles Newton, and the Myth of Demeter and Persephone

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pp. 90-106

... of “The Myth of Demeter and Persephone” (1876) regard Pater’s portrait of Demeter as a rare instance of his theorizing on female gender ideology. In “The Emergence of Pater’s Marius Mentality, 1874–1875,” Billie Andrew Inman argues that Pater reclaims the story of Demeter’s travails as “a celebration of maternity,”1 which forecasts the reconciliation of pagan and Christian conceptions of the family in ...

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“Outward Nature and the Moods of Men”: Romantic Mythology in Pater’s Essays on Dionysus and Demeter

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pp. 107-118

published posthumously in 1895, is, together with Plato and Platonism and the essay on Winckelmann, Pater’s most substantial contribution to Classical scholarship. Although it is in several respects an unorthodox work, with its visionary lyricism and its sudden leaps into fiction, its intellectual premises are solid: Pater wants to introduce his readers to a different ...

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“Reanimate Greek”: Pater and Ruskin on Botticelli

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pp. 119-132

This essay offers a comparative reading of Pater’s and Ruskin’s interpretations of the painter. In particular, it will examine two features common to these interpretations: a marked dependence on the painter’s sixteenth-century biographer, Giorgio Vasari, and the argument that Botticelli’s work represented a “rebirth” of Greek art and culture in fifeenth-century Florence. ...

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Schooling Leonardo: Collaboration, Desire, and the Challenge of Attribution in Pater

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pp. 133-150

... in the history of reputation, starting in the middle years of the nineteenth century but continuing to our day, critics reversed the once-common practice of ascribing as many works as possible to artists of note. New methods of analysis along with the increasing value placed on scarcity made it more interesting and important not to swell the pages of the catalogues, but to reduce the number of works ascribed to a ...

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The Politics of Formalist Art Criticism: Pater’s “School of Giorgione”

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pp. 151-169

... well-rehearsed critique of Victorian aestheticism, many twentieth-century critics take the movement at its apolitical word, reading “art for art’s sake” as the catch-phrase for an idyllic and irresponsible dream-world of art, removed from the vested interests of daily life. Peter Bürger gives this idea its most famous expression in his Theory of the Avant- Garde, ...

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Pater’s “Great Change”: Marius the Epicurean as Historical Conversion Romance

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pp. 170-188

Samuel, about the importance of personal religious conversion, swelling the soul like a ripening peach: “I would willingly walk barefoot from this place to Sandgate to see a clear proof of the great change begun in my dear Samuel at the end of my journey.”1 Wilberforce’s preoccupation with “the great change” is symptomatic of a nervous fascination with the process and effects ...

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Marius at Oxford: Paterian Pedagogy and the Ethics of Seduction

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pp. 189-201

Addington Symonds confessed to a correspondent: “His view of life gives me the creeps, as old women say. I am sure it is a ghastly sham;& that live by it or no as he may do, his utterance of the theory of the world has in it the wormy-hollow-voiced seductiveness of a fiend.”1 That Symonds lauded the book shortly thereafter in a review, that he made respectful reference to it in ...

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Poetics of Ekphrasisin Pater’s “Imaginary Portraits”

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pp. 202-212

... the recreation of culture is often inspired by the contemplation of art. In “Emerald Uthwart,” “Gaudioso the Second” and “Sebastian van Storck,” Pater creates new images of real or imaginary artistic objects in a manner reminiscent of ekphrasis—a figure which he praises in the Greek Studies. In “The Beginnings of Greek Sculpture” he comments upon two ...

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The Imaginary Portrait: Pater’s Contribution to a Literary Genre

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pp. 213-223

... is often considered Pater’s unique narrative form, it has seldom been the specific object of critical note even though the widespread tendency has been that of dealing with it in comprehensive discussions of the writer’s output. If we except Gerald Monsman’s seminal and pioneering Pater’s Portraits: Mythic Pattern in the Fiction of Walter ...

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Beauty’s New “Hour”: Paterian Aestheticism in the Short Fiction of Olivia Shakespear

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pp. 225-235

... the only prose work by a female published in the aggressively heterosexual1 magazine the Savoy, is interfused with Paterian motifs and gestures, from the shaping of her aestheticism to arguments for female subjectivity released from a masculine economy of desire. This essay discusses Shakespear’s novella, subtitled “A Phantasy,” in terms of its contributions to fin-de-siècle aesthetic and decadent ...

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Pater’s Body of Work

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pp. 236-249

... who lacks the confirming flourish of “real art” in his own work, Pater’s recommendations on aesthetics can be interpreted as inhibiting the talents he frequently seeks to promote, and it is one effect of his highly vigilant attitude towards art to turn the aesthete not into the hero, but rather the servant and, at times, the broken slave of the aesthetic. This is why ...

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Walter Pater and Walter Benjamin: The Diaphanous Collector and the Angel of History

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pp. 250-260

... his intensely Schillerean first extant essay, to Plato and Platonism (1893), the fanciful Hegelian recounting of pre-Socratic and Platonic philosophy he gave shortly before he died, Walter Horatio Pater consistently struggled to merge the British demand for clarity and simplicity with a German taste for speculative thought. Pater found himself, in a way like his contemporary William Morris, born in an English ...

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Walter Pater’s “Latent Intelligence” and the Conception of Queer “Theory”

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pp. 261-284

... to say that from the time Pater began publishing his work in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the history of Pater criticism from W. H. Mallock on down has been marked by a persistent strain of homophobia, which is easy enough to identify, but the history of which is too long to describe here.1 My favorite example, however, is a 1980s essay called “The ...

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Pater’s Critical Spirit

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pp. 286-297

... and newly appreciative critical attention to Walter Pater in the last decades have come as well, it seems, overdetermined debates about just how his work is to be read. I am thinking, firstly but not solely, of the peculiarly acrimonious exchanges between Jonathan Loesberg and J. Hillis Miller on the nature of Pater’s philosophical genealogy and, ...

The Notes

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pp. 299-362


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pp. 363-367


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pp. 369-380

E-ISBN-13: 9780944318355
Print-ISBN-13: 9780944318164
Print-ISBN-10: 0944318169

Page Count: 394
Illustrations: 22 photos, drawings
Publication Year: 2002