Walter Pater Questions for English 256 Intro to Theory, Chapman University Fall 2012



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Assigned: "Conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance" (728-30).

"Conclusion to Studies in the History of the Renaissance"

1. On 728-29, how does Pater describe the "tendency of modern thought"? What examples does he provide of this tendency, and how does he enlist the language of scientific objectivity and discovery in his description?

2. On 729, according to Pater, following Novalis, what is the "service" of philosophy? How does this view differ from the aims of systemic philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel as we have discussed them in class?

3. On 729-30, how does Pater the Oxford lecturer (he was a fellow of Oxford's Brasenose College from 1864 until his death in 1894) define "success in life"? Again, as in the first question, how and why does Pater employ the language of science to make his case? Finally, by way of inference, what kind of life would constitute failure in the Paterian view?

4. On 730, do you find Pater's final statements about art's place in the hierarchy of pleasure convincing in light of the previous remarks he has made about pleasure in his "Conclusion"? Why might his "Conclusion" have been considered misleading or morally suspect by some Victorian readers?

5. General question (not for presentations): what sort of audience do you think might find Pater's aesthetic program appealing and viable? How might it be said that Pater's program amounts to another Victorian withdrawal from the "romantic project" of transforming the public's taste and spiritual priorities? Do you think that would be a fair criticism? Why or why not?

6. General question (not for presentations): if you are familiar with the whole of Pater's 1873 book Studies in the History of the Renaissance, to what extent does the tone of the "Conclusion" suit the statements about aesthetic criticism Pater makes in his "Preface" to the same work?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.