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Poetry of the Renaissance is not longer a primary occupation.
Pater’s essays take up a two-sided idea of the Renaissance, both normative and subversive, celebrating canonical artist-heroes even while depicting them engaged in behavior that would have scandalized Victorian society. (For example, many of the male artists he studies, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, are romantically involved with other men.) His recurring strategy is to engage with a well-known author or artist in a way that seems to agree with conventional wisdom, pretending to fit in with accepted judgments while at the same time proposing his own audacious opinions. Most famously, he quotes Matthew Arnold approvingly in his preface to The Renaissance, only to overturn Arnold’s idea in the following clause:
Walter Pater (Fig. 1) is known as the chief theorist of the Aesthetic movement. His essays laid out the serious and subversive ideas underpinning an art movement whose rebellion was enacted through an embrace of beauty and strangeness. Art historians today are not in the business of proposing to us controversial new ways of living and thinking; yet that is what happened in 1873, when Pater published his collection titled Studies in the History of the Renaissance. He used the art-historical essay as a platform to describe indirectly a lifestyle freed from Victorian conventionalities, especially those surrounding the human body. While many authors before Pater had used art history to meditate more broadly on modern values—most influentially, the art critic John Ruskin, promoting the moral worth of Gothic architecture—Pater puts his own unique spin on the practice. Though Pater has often been assimilated into an apparently normative group of Victorian essay writers that includes Ruskin and Matthew Arnold, this piece will highlight some of his more rebellious tendencies, describing how he critiques and even ironizes the scholarly tradition to which he contributes. His double vision is at once serious and transgressive, using the canon of Renaissance art to offer his own idiosyncratic impressions and to implicitly defend the right of others to experience a similar freedom.
This soon became known as the Harlem Renaissance.
When one is describing a “fresh and brilliant portrait of African American art and culture in the 1920s (Rampersad, Arnold),” the Harlem Renaissance would be the most accurate assumption.
Scholars such as Richard Dellamora have even argued that The Renaissance’s famous female characters are “phallic women,” or masculinized self-portraits of the artists (see 136-46). Normative Victorian femininity is difficult to locate within these essays.
This great migration was the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance.
This brief “Conclusion” was omitted in the second edition of this book, as I conceived it might possibly mislead some of those young men into whose hands it might fall. On the whole, I have thought it best to reprint it here, with some slight changes which bring it closer to my original meaning. I have dealt more fully in Marius the Epicurean with the thoughts suggested in it. (qtd. in Pater, Renaissance, ed. Beaumont 177)
It is apparent to most people whether it be an everyday citizen, or a person specializing in history, that the Harlem Renaissance truly changed the America that we know today....
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Genuine renaissance woman long before there was a renaissance.
The Harlem Renaissance brought about a flourishing of the African American community, it helped bring black culture into a predominantly white society, and it generally satisfied problems previously faced by the African American community.
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The evolution of African-American culture, expressed through art, music and creative writings, and establishing roots in European-American society became known as the Harlem Renaissance.
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The most influential pages of The Renaissance come in its brief “Conclusion.” Only three pages long, this aesthetic manifesto—adapted from Pater’s 1868 review of William Morris’s Earthly Paradise—turns away from the explicit subject of Renaissance art to address the reader directly. What matters most in life, according to Pater? Not any of the usual Victorian middle-class values of Christian faith, moral rectitude, social status, business competition, financial gain, nor any kind of public life. Facing the stark fact of human mortality, Pater exhorts his readers to take pleasure in sense impressions and in the pursuit of knowledge, whether admiring an artwork or another person:
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The idea of the Renaissance here takes on its broadest possible meaning, alluding to a cultural rebirth possible for Victorian readers as much as Italian painters. In a Victorian world defined by strict etiquette and severe conventionality, we can understand why Pater’s recommendation of “ecstasy” as the best life path invited immediate controversy.
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