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Chapter 4 - Studies in European Literature: Pater’s Cosmopolitan Criticism

from Part I - General

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

In parallel with the establishment of English as an academic subject, Pater’s lifetime coincided with the institutionalisation of Modern Languages as an independent field of study within British universities. Pater’s contribution to the debate over a School of English at Oxford must therefore be understood in relation to his involvement with the Oxford School of Modern Languages and with the cultural and social space of the Taylorian Institution. In 1890, Pater was invited to contribute to the prestigious Taylor Lectures, which were designed to promote the study of modern European languages and literatures. The resulting lecture and essay, ‘Prosper Mérimée’, presents the French writer as a cosmopolitan and cultural mediator. After Pater’s death, the first series of Taylor lectures was collected in a volume entitled Studies in European Literature (1900). Reading the essay on Mérimée in the context of that volume enables us to see Pater as an advocate of a comparative approach to literature and as rejecting the nationalist mentality in which the rise of English in universities found itself implicated.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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