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The “deeply felt” quality of Walter Pater's essay on Winckelmann indicates the depth of affinity between these two men. Young Pater shared Winckelmann's religious scepticism, his intense commitment to rationality, and his absorption in the study of art. As well, both shared an erotic temperament and wrote especially for young men. Winckelmann had shown that an explicit homoeroticism might play a key role in cultural interpretation. His writing helped Pater in his effort to counter the Matthew Arnold of “Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment.” Already in March 1864, when Arnold delivered this lecture at Oxford, he was reacting against the second-generation Pre-Raphaelites. At least such a reaction explains his harsh treatment of Heine as a latter-day pagan. Although only a year earlier Arnold had delivered a sympathetic and well-informed lecture on Heine, he now put him in the position of aesthete and ignored important elements of his thought. Walter Pater may well have been one of Arnold's auditors at this time (DeLaura, p. 203). If so, the occasion was prophetic because Heine's position as characterized by Arnold resembles that which Pater would take in 1867 in his second published essay, “Winckelmann” (DeLaura, p. 201). Pater realized as much, hence took steps to subvert the position that Arnold took in his lecture. He supplemented Arnold's view of Greek culture in the time of Sophocles with Winckelmann's playful and sensuous ideal of androgynous beauty in the succeeding age of Praxiteles. Pater reinterpreted Arnold's ideal of the imaginative reason in an erotic light. Arnold's negative treatment of Heine extended to the “peace” between “body and soul” that Heine had prophesied (p. 227). Pater corrected this bias in Arnold and argued instead the importance of the body as a crux of value in a contemporary ideal of culture.
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