Sources for Further Study (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
London Review of Books. XVII, August 24, 1995, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 28, 1995, p. 3.
The New Republic. CCXII, May 22, 1995, p. 34.
The New York Review of Books. XLII, November 2, 1995, p. 48.
The New York Times Book Review. C, May 14, 1995, p. 15.
The New Yorker. LXXI, May 15, 1995, p. 87.
The Sewanee Review. CIII, April, 1995, p. 313.
The Wall Street Journal. May 12, 1995, p. A11.
The Washington Post Book World. XXV, June 11, 1995, p. 4.
The Wilson Quarterly. XIX, Spring, 1995, p. 88.
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Walter Pater (PAYT-ur) is principally remembered as a critic. His most influential work, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873; revised as The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, 1877, 1888, 1893), decisively changed the Victorian conception of art as a vehicle for the expression of uplifting sentiments or edifying ideals. Pater, whose unnamed antagonist was John Ruskin, argued that art is preeminently concerned with the dextrous elaboration of its own sensuous ingredients. Form, color, balance, and tone: These are the elements of which art is constituted. Hence, the imposition of a moral upon a painting, a poem, or a musical composition subverts the integrity of the work and distorts the function of criticism. The genuine critic begins with an analysis of the impression that a painting or a poem communicates and then endeavors to trace that impression to the structural elements of which the work is composed. Ultimately, as the notorious conclusion to The Renaissance makes clear, art is chiefly to be cherished as a means of enhancing, expanding, and enlarging the faculties of sensuous apprehension and as a catalyst in the pursuit of more varied, exquisite, and complex sensations. In the last analysis, Pater was inclined to evaluate and judge life itself as an aesthetic phenomenon.
Pater qualified this position in...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Walter Pater’s achievement as a novelist and a critic is central to the modern vision of art. Though he was not always edified by the scandalous manner in which his disciples interpreted his message, nor gratified by the distortion of his ideas by an entire generation of aesthetes and decadents, Pater, when he is fully understood, emerges as a figure of incalculable importance in the evolution of twentieth century literature. In the first place, he did away with much of the fustian approach that obscured the appreciation of art in his own day, and he left a critical legacy, which extended into the twentieth century in the works of Bernard Berenson and Roger Fry. Moreover, as Harold Bloom observes of Pater’s most memorable character, “Marius, more than any fictional character of our age, is the representative modern poet as well as the representative man of literary culture who remains the only audience for that poet.”
As a stylist, too, Pater was wonderfully suggestive and original. Adapting the rich and ornate cadences of Ruskin to his more subtle purpose, Pater evolved a style that is the last word in delicacy, refinement, and understated eloquence. His sentences are characterized by elaborate parentheses, delicately wrought rhythms, and mannered circumlocutions—annoying to some readers—and his malleable prose matches with minute accuracy the uncertainties, doubts, and deliberations of a mind in debate with itself, a mind fastidiously alive...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Walter Pater. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. Bloom has compiled what he considers some of the best criticism available on Pater. A valuable and well-rounded study.
Brake, Laurel, and Ian Small, eds. Pater in the 1990’s. Greensboro, N.C.: ELT Press, 1991. This collection of fifteen critical essays was culled from papers offered at a 1988 Pater conference at Oxford University. The editors note that while half of the essays they include reflect the older New Criticism approach to literature, the other half demonstrate the shift in Pater criticism toward consideration of his works in historical and biographical contexts. Topics range from editing Pater to his friends and literary influences to his own lasting influence on writers such as James Joyce.
Buckler, William E. Walter Pater: The Critic as Artist of Ideas. New York: New York University Press, 1987. This scholarly study examines the breadth and depth of Pater’s prose and poetry, as well as his role as a critic, acknowledging him as a major but underrated writer.
Court, Franklin E. Walter Pater: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him. De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1980. This volume includes a checklist of a representative body of criticism on Pater from 1871 through 1973. Contains abstracts of critical...
(The entire section is 344 words.)