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Introduction: Pater and English Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2023

Charles Martindale
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Affiliation:
University of York
Lene Østermark-Johansen
Affiliation:
University of Copenhagen
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Summary

The Introduction frames a collection that makes the case for Pater’s importance for the study of English literature, bringing to the fore key themes and preoccupations and thus underlining the unity and coherence of the book. Discussion starts in 1886 when the Pall Mall Gazette asked writers, intellectuals, and educators to comment on the proposal by J. Churton Collins to establish a School of English at the University of Oxford; Pater’s writings on literature are looked at in the light of institutional debates and developments in literary criticism at this time. The Introduction explores in detail Pater’s commitment to what, in the ‘Preface’ to The Renaissance, he calls ‘aesthetic criticism’, derived in part from German philosophical aesthetics, and what he intends by his stress on ‘style’ and ‘form’. Finally it looks at Pater’s conception of education as dialogic process, stemming in particular from Plato and Montaigne, and the role his use of the essay plays in that process; the case is made that Pater has much to offer us when we think about desirable forms of English Studies for today that are neither nationalistic nor exceptionalist but cosmopolitan.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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