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31:2, Book Reviews people who were emotionally abnormal but would portray mental states physically by portraying people as anatomically grotesque. A human being did not have to wait for birth to become Beardsley's victim. "The little creature handing hats," he once wrote his publisher about a drawing, "is not an infant but an unstrangled abortion." Does this ad hominem approach suggested invalidate Ewa Kuryluk's investigations ? Only in its omission of the internal springs to creativity. For Beardsley as for others who found inspiration and outlets in the grotesque tradition, and who enriched it with new variations and new meanings applied to a changing world, the grotesque remained a perversely accurate lens to the psyche. It is rewarding to have such an encyclopedic guidebook into the cave. Stanley Weintraub The Pennsylvania State University BLOOM'S PATER Harold Bloom, ed. Walter Pater. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. $19.95 As a writer on Aestheticism and on the English decadence, Harold Bloom needs no introduction. He is the author of a provocative essay on Yeats and the editor of an anthology of Pater's work. His reader of critical writing on Walter Pater continues that interest. It will be welcomed by students of the period because it adds to the available critical material on Pater by bringing together nine essays by noted authorities—although it has to be said that none of the essays is particularly difficult to find in its original form. Bloom suggests in his "Editor's Note" that his volume contains a "selection of the best and most representative criticism that is now available on the great critic, Walter Pater." No one would quibble with that assessment of the quality of the contributions to the anthology; so why, then, does this collection of critical writing on Pater, including as it does such eminent critics as John Hillis Miller, Harold Bloom himself and Graham Hough, finally disappoint? One of Harold Bloom's own pieces—"The Place of Pater: Marius the Epicurean"— gives us a clue. The title now has a quaint ring to it: indeed it sounds oddly Leavisite in its formulation and implications—the perception of a canon of writers as a "history" in which each may be "placed" with an unerring precision . The essay dates from 1971 and was important in that it offered a way of seeing Aestheticism within a predominantly English context. Bloom suggested that the (until then) usual assumptions about the genealogy and origins of Aestheticism (in "the literary Paris of the 1850s") gave the wrong emphasis. He suggested that the aesthetics of Aestheticism derived in no small measure from English Romanticism. But that was 1971, and very few paid up faculty members—formalists, structuralists, post-structuralists or whatever—are innocent now of the claims of semiotics, particularly of the semiotics of acculturation . Indeed the whole notion of a "national culture" and the ways in which 195 31:2, Book Reviews the "foreign" is assimilated by the "native" are now debated in a much more complex way. The same sort of point can be made in a slightly different way about the second piece in Bloom's collection, part of Graham Hough's essay on Pater in TAe Last Romantics, first published in 1947. Hough's essay was one for which the claim for originality can be made with total honesty, for it was instrumental in bringing about a change of attitudes to writers in the late nineteenth century, and virtually recovered them for literary history. But it too has dated. It would be impossible, for example, to write a passage such as the following today: Morbid is often a question-begging term; but what is really meant by it here is I suppose the suggestion in Pater's writing of some half-developed sexual deviation, of which we catch hints in the alliance between love and pain, the half-fear of sensuous impressions , the resultant languor. And this raises the question of a prevalent sexual unbalance in much of the work of the aesthetic school: the dominance of erotic reverie in Rossetti; the incapacity or refusal of normal sexual experience in Ruskin and Pater. . . . Remembering too the continual evidences of homosexual feeling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 195-197
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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