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The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing$
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J. B. Bullen

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128885.001.0001

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The Renaissance as Enactment Walter Pater

The Renaissance as Enactment Walter Pater

12 The Renaissance as Enactment Walter Pater
The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing


Oxford University Press

Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance was published in 1873, but by 1869 he had evolved a highly personal myth of the Renaissance which informed all his subsequent work. Each of the essays which he wrote up to and including his essay on Leonardo da Vinci (1869) mark the evolution of the myth, and those which came afterwards, with the exception of the rather later ‘school of Giorgione’, are based upon premises about the nature of the Renaissance which Pater formulated in the 1860s. Pater is always quietly present in his writing, persistently colluding with his reader in such a way that his history possesses a curious sense of the contemporaneous. Pater is always aware of how, in historiography, subject and object are collapsed in the process of writing. The titles of the chapters that make up Studies in the History of the Renaissance suggest that it is predominantly a biographical history. In Pater’s essay on Johann Winckelmann, the Renaissance has lost almost entirely its historical connotations.

Keywords:   Renaissance, Walter Pater, history, historiography, myth, Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Winckelmann

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