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Walter Pater’s conception of the ‘central love-poetry of Provence’ (1860-1890)

Abstract : This paper focuses on Walter Pater’s approach of Provençal poetry. Pater associated the poetry of the troubadours with “antinomianism” – a religious rebellion which to him was a “Renaissance” already at work in the Middle Ages. Pater envisions this reaction against religion as a sensuous and physical liberation that originated in religion itself and brought about “a rival religion with a new rival cultus” (“Poems by William Morris”, 1868). He considers the story of Aucassin and Nicolette as a late representative of Provençal poetry, in which religion is replaced by “earthly passion, with its intimacy, its freedom, its variety – the liberty of the heart” (“Two Early French Stories”, 1872). Pater also discerns a whole aesthetic and poetical tradition that comprises the poets of Provence as well as Abelard and Dante in order to inscribe the contemporary school of “aesthetic poetry” within that very tradition, with Morris and Rossetti as prominent figures of that school. Studying their love poetry, Pater states that Morris and Rossetti were inspired by the themes and the peculiar aesthetic of that Provençal tradition – which are characterized by themes of sadness, madness and unrequited love. Pater’s construction of the poetry of Provence in fact contributes to his critical project – defining “Aestheticism” and legitimizing contemporary controversial poets such as Morris and Rossetti. And his discourse on medieval poetry is characterized by very personal aesthetic motifs.
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Contributor : Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada <>
Submitted on : Monday, April 8, 2019 - 4:21:07 PM
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Anne-Florence Gillard-Estrada. Walter Pater’s conception of the ‘central love-poetry of Provence’ (1860-1890). di/segni, Università degli Studi di Milano, 2013, Provence and the British Imagination, pp.95-104. ⟨hal-02093094⟩

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