I love Walter Pater. I want to go back in time and have an affair with Walter Pater. Yes, I love him that much. Pater’s work influences my approach to literature and to critical theory. Pater’s anachronistic vision of the Renaissance as an idea that transcends a particular time prefigures our contemporary ideas that resist “periodisation” in literary studies. I filter all of my readings of literary theory and criticism through his ideas. He reminds me that the critic’s perspective, one’s subjectivity informs and changes a work of art. As a reader, as a viewer in a museum, theatre, or cineplex, I inform and change the experience of art.
His views on Hellenism are of particular interest to me and my own work because of the way he reads same-sex desire. Unlike modern conceptions of sexuality that categorize and diagnose sexuality through the eyes of medicine, same-sex desire was, for Pater, an intellectual experience, a world-view that allows the queer man or woman to bring fresh ideas to cultures and communities.
The following YouTube Clip from learnoutloud is a passage from one of his most famous essays in Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873). Pater’s writing is poetic because he saw criticism as a work of art. I am nowhere near the writer that Pater was, but in my formal academic writing, I try to always keep him in mind when I put my pen to paper. All writing is an art and we should never forget that.
Enjoy the beauty of Walter Pater’s words and have a lovely week.