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By Jonathan Loesberg

Thought of an exemplar of "Art-for-Art's Sake" in Victorian paintings and literature, Walter Pater (1839-1894) was once co-opted as a typical bearer for the cult of hedonism via Oscar Wilde, and this model of aestheticism has due to the fact that been used to assault deconstruction. the following Jonathan Loesberg boldly makes use of Pater's vital paintings on society and tradition, stories within the background of the Renaissance (1873), to argue that the routine dismissal of deconstruction as "aestheticist" fails to acknowledge the real philosophic aspect and political engagement inside of aestheticism. interpreting Jacques Derrida and Paul de guy in gentle of Pater's Renaissance, Loesberg starts off through accepting the cost that deconstruction is "aestheticist." He is going directly to convey, despite the fact that, that aestheticism and glossy deconstruction either produce philosophical wisdom and political impression via continual self-questioning or "self-resistance" and within the inner critique and destabilization of hegemonic truths. all through Loesberg reinterprets Pater and reexamines the contributions of deconstruction in terms of the obvious theoretical shift clear of deconstruction and towards new historicism.

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Additional resources for Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and de Man

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Pater learns from science much the same lesson that Arnold does. But the relationship he draws between literature, the arts, and aesthetic experience, on the one hand, and the truths of science, on the other, differs entirely. We have seen that Pater wants to ground his ethics and aesthetics on a description of basic perception. " The original opening paragraph to the "Conclusion" marked a transition from Pater's interpretation of William Morris's poetry to the more general statement That transition makes clear the relationship between the "Conclusion" and Arnold's concerns and Pater's different tack to the problem Arnold sees science raising: One characteristic of the pagan spirit these new poems have which is on their surface—the continual suggestion, pensive or passionate, of the shortness of life; this is contrasted with the bloom of the world and gives new seduction to it; the sense of death and the desire of beauty; the desire of beauty quickened by the sense of death.

Arnold makes that claim in "Qn the Modern Element in Literature," a lecture he delivered in 1857 but did not publish until 1869. Pater did not come up to Oxford until 1858, and he first published "Winckelmann" in the Westminster Review in 1867. A direct link between the two essays is thus unlikely. After Pater arrived at Oxford, however, a few months after Arnold gave that first lecture, he followed the rest of the lectures on modern literature (an uncompleted and unpublished series) and began to read Arnold closely (Levey, 6768).

It is a "delicious recoil," an experience both pleasurable and painful. Thus for Pater, as indeed for most nineteenth-century empiricists, there is a necessary friction or contradiction within each unitary act of sensation. One might argue that the poetry of the passage calls into question the exemplariness of the sensation it describes. But, in fact, the definition is firmly embedded in the empirical tradition on which Pater is basing himself. Indeed, even before Hume, Berkeley, and Locke, Hobbes offers at the beginning of The leviathan this compact definition of sense: "The cause of sense is the external body or object which presses the organ proper to each sense, either immediately as in the taste and touch, or mediately as in seeing, hearing, and smelling; which pressure, by the mediation of the nerves and other strings and membranes of the body continued inward to the brain and heart, causes there a resistance or counter-pressure or endeavor of the heart to deliver itself, which endeavor, because outward, seems to be some matter without" (Hobbes, 25).

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