Strangeness and Beauty: Volume 2, Pater to Symons: An Anthology of Aesthetic Criticism 1840-1910

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This is a two-volume anthology of criticism of art and literature from approximately 1840 to 1910. The central purpose of the anthology is to show how Romantic ideas of art and imagination were transformed by a number of writers in the nineteenth century and became the fundamental premisses of modernist aesthetics. The presiding genius of volume 2 is Pater, who was much influenced by Ruskin's belief in refining and educating the senses as a path to spiritual fulfilment. However, whereas Ruskin saw this education as a means of enriching the moral and religious life conceived in fundamentally orthodox terms, Pater regards religion as a supreme aesthetic experience with no particular connections either with morality or with any bourgeois virtues. Those who came under Pater's influence envinced disdain for the social order and its accepted values; this new tone is evident in the work of George Moore, Whistler and Wilde, all represented in this volume. The final author in this anthology, Arthur Symons, forms one of the principal links between nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetics, for it was his introduction of the French Symbolists to England, which was to give such a powerful impulse to the innovations of Eliot and Pound.