WALTER PATER QUESTIONS FOR E335 VICTORIAN LITERATURE
Assigned: "Preface" and "Conclusion" to The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry (Norton 1507-13); from The Renaissance Chapter 6, "Leonardo da Vinci." The Norton Anthology contains only the "La Gioconda" passage of the chapter on Leonardo; our e-text excerpts are fuller.
"Preface" to The Renaissance
1. On 1507-10, what must critics do first, according to Pater, before they can hope to achieve their aims? What exactly are those aims: what is the aesthetic critic's responsibility to the work of art and to the audience?
2. On 1507-10, what similarities and differences do you find between Pater's statements about the "the aim of true criticism" and Matthew Arnold's remarks in "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" (1384-97)?
3. On 1509-10, how does Pater describe the Italian Renaissance? What characterized that period and movement? Moreover, to what extent (and why) does Pater expand the usual boundaries historians might set for a term such as "the Renaissance"?
From "Leonardo da Vinci" in The Renaissance
4. In the first few pages of the e-text selection, how does Pater prepare readers for his explanation of Leonardo's genius as a painter: that is, how does he describe Leonardo's background and his personality as a youth, as well as his early experiences in connection with the renowned artist Verrocchio?
5. To what extent does Pater, in describing Leonardo's famous portrait of Mona Lisa ("La Gioconda"), achieve "the aim of true criticism" that he sets forth in his Preface? Matthew Arnold said that the critic's task should be "to see the object as in itself it really is." As you understand Pater's effort, what is he aiming to do here?
"Conclusion" to The Renaissance
6. On 1511-12, how do the first three paragraphs of the Conclusion describe the "tendency of modern thought"? What examples of that tendency does Pater set forth, and in what order? What rhetorical aim does the order in which he offers them seem designed to achieve?
7. On 1512-13, how does Pater characterize the purpose of philosophy, define "success in life," and then elaborate on that definition and its implications for those who want to live as fully as possible? What does he suggest about the value of art in this quest, and about art's relationship to other areas of life?
8. General Question: When Pater first published Studies in the History of the The Renaissance in 1873, some thought the Conclusion scandalous, and Pater withdrew it in at least one of several subsequent editions. Why might this aesthetic peroration have been considered morally dangerous by some Victorian readers? What sort of audience do you think might find Pater's aesthetic program appealing?
Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 2 (Vols. DEF) 0-393-92834-9. See also excerpts from The Renaissance Ch. 6, (E-Text excerpts from "Leonardo da Vinci.")