Major Books on Pater in English
Barolsky, Paul. Walter Pater’s Renaissance. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1987.
An experimental and self-reflexive study of Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Emphasizes Pater’s playfulness and imaginative freedom as an art critic, and reads his work in a self-consciously Paterian spirit. Argues that a greater recognition of his place within the history of art criticism will enable a deeper appreciation of the close links between the history of art and imaginative literature. Discusses Pater’s relations to Bernard Berenson, Flaubert, Keats, Gautier, Hugo, Baudelaire, and Mallarmé, and his influence upon T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Vladimir Nabokov. Provides extended analysis of Pater’s interpretations of Vasari, Botticelli, and Giorgione.
Brake, Laurel. Writers and their Work: Walter Pater. Plymouth: Northcote House, 1994.
Concise introduction that follows the template of the Northcote House ‘Writers and their Work’ series. Provides biographical information, including a potted biographical outline, a survey of Pater’s major writings, and a selected bibliography. Situates Pater in relation to recent criticism, particularly the new impetus to reappraise his work and biography in terms of the cultural history of homosexuality. Highlights the extent to which his career was shaped by the Victorian periodical press.
Buckler, William E. Walter Pater: The Critic as Artist of Ideas. New York: New York University Press, 1987.
Surveys Pater’s body of work with an emphasis upon his ‘critical humanism’, his kinship with Matthew Arnold, and his essentially modern — rather than classical or Romantic — cast of mind. Suggests that Pater’s work exposes the limitations of historicist literary criticism, and argues that Pater’s own commitment to aesthetic appreciation should also condition any assessment of his achievement. Provides extended readings of all of Pater’s major works and close analysis of his ‘creative-critical’ method.
Budziak, Anna. Text, Body, and Indeterminacy: Doppelgänger Selves in Pater and Wilde. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.
A close study of the essayistic fictions Pater published as Imaginary Portraits (1887), with chapters devoted to ‘A Prince of Court Painters’, ‘Denys l’Auxerrois’, ‘Sebastian van Storck’, and ‘Duke Carl of Rosenmold’. Interprets Pater’s portraits through the lens of American neo-pragmatist philosophy, specifically the work of Richard Rorty and Richard Shusterman. Argues that Pater’s work illuminates, and can be illuminated by, a philosophical debate between Rorty and Shusterman over whether the self ought to be construed as a primarily linguistic phenomenon, or must also be understood in terms of its material embodiment. Also ventures close analysis of Pater’s imagery and mythic patterning, with particular attention to his deployment of the doppelgänger motif.
Child, Ruth C. The Aesthetic of Walter Pater. Darby: Darby Books, 1940.
Early study of Pater’s works based upon a doctoral thesis submitted at the University of Michigan. Seeks to correct the perception — which the author takes to be a modern rather than a Victorian one — that he espoused a shallow and immoral form of aestheticism, and to rehabilitate him as a serious and humane critic. Contextualizes Pater’s understanding of ‘art for art’s sake’ and provides analysis of his major works, with particular attention to his theories of form and his standards of critical judgment. Argues that Pater’s mode of criticism is not purely subjective or impressionistic, and seeks to clarify his engagements with the history of ideas and with contemporary writers and thinkers.
Coates, John. The Rhetorical Use of Provocation as a Means of Persuasion in the Writings of Walter Pater (1839-1894), English Essayist and Cultural Critic: Pater as Controversialist. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2011.
Gathers together journal articles on Pater published over two decades. Closely appraises Pater’s engagements with Victorian intellectual debates, and emphasizes his subtlety as a critic and polemicist. Includes analysis of most of Pater’s major works but devotes more attention to his writings after Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Contextualizes Pater’s responses to a large number of prominent writers and thinkers, including Matthew Arnold, John Henry Newman, Ernest Renan, John Ruskin, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Edward Burnett Tylor.
Conlon, John J. Walter Pater and the French Tradition. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1982.
Situates Pater in relation to French literary and intellectual traditions, and emphasizes his importance as a disseminator and interpreter of French culture in Victorian England. Analyses Pater’s conviction that a proto-Renaissance took place in medieval France, and the centrality of French Romanticism to his aestheticism. Discusses Pater’s responses to a wide range of French thinkers and writers, including Flaubert, Hugo, Mérimée, Michelet, Pascal, Sainte-Beuve, and Zola.
Court, Franklin E. Pater and His Early Critics. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria Press, 1980.
A study of the early critical reception of Pater’s works. Argues that Pater was a somewhat reluctant representative of the Aesthetic movement and seeks to recover how his works were received by Victorian critics who had no special investment in aestheticism, or who had more conservative critical instincts. Provides detailed analysis of how Pater’s works were read by Edmund Gosse, Margaret Oliphant, John Morley, George Saintsbury, and Mrs. Humphry Ward.
Crinkley, Richmond. Walter Pater: Humanist. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.
Organized around extended close readings of Pater’s major works. Emphasizes his interest in ‘modernity’ and ‘relativism’; his sense that art provides a refuge from the transience of the self; his understanding of form; and his investment in an ideal of a ‘many-sided’ culture.
Daley, Kenneth. The Rescue of Romanticism: Walter Pater and John Ruskin. Athens: Ohio State University Press, 2001.
Analyzes Pater’s engagements with the work of John Ruskin, with a particular focus on their contrasting responses to the legacy of Romanticism. Argues that Pater sought to recuperate Romanticism as a critical category and aesthetic mode in the wake of Ruskin’s reaction against it. Individual chapters address Ruskin’s and Pater’s divergent responses to Wordsworth, the Italian Renaissance, and French Romanticism.
DeLaura, David J. Hebrew and Hellene in Victorian England: Newman, Arnold, and Pater. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969.
Offers detailed analysis of Pater’s intellectual development and his shifting responses to Arnold and Newman, particularly his appropriations and revisions of their religious thought. Characterizes Pater’s ‘aesthetic humanism’ as an effort to adapt traditional Christianity to the conditions of the late Victorian period. Provides close readings of most of Pater’s major works and traces his evolving attitudes to Christianity and Hellenism. Also emphasizes the influence of the intellectual culture at Oxford University upon Pater’s thinking, and his conception of the role of the critic and the value of humanistic study in the modern age.
Donoghue, Denis. Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls. New York: Knopf, 1995.
A critical biography of Pater aimed at a general, literate readership. Emphasizes Pater’s importance as a precursor to the modernism of Eliot, Joyce, and Yeats, and surveys his major works with a particular attention to the unique qualities of his prose style and with reference to his biography and psychology. Uses Pater’s work to mount a defence of aesthetic pleasure and judgment, and to critique the modern tendency to treat works of art as repositories of ideology or as effects of their cultural and material conditions.
Fellows, Jay. Tombs Despoiled and Haunted: ‘Under-Textures’ and ‘After Thoughts’ in Walter Pater. Foreword by J. Hillis Miller. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1991.
An experimental and self-reflexive work of criticism published posthumously and shepherded through the press by J. Hillis Miller. Reads Pater’s work through the lenses of the ‘Geneva critics’ (Georges Poulet, Gaston Bachelard, and Jean-Pierre Richard) and the post-structuralism of Derrida. Explores Pater’s œuvre as an ‘autobiography of linguistic consciousness’ and finds a subterranean logic at work in the patterns of imagery across his texts, one which circles around the themes of death and homecoming.
Hawthorne Young, Helen. The Writings of Walter Pater: A Reflection of British Philosophical Opinion from 1860 to 1890. Lancaster: Lancaster Press, 1933.
Positions Pater as an exemplary Victorian thinker who distilled the philosophical currents of his age. Emphasizes his eclecticism, his sensitivity to nuance and complexity, and his impulse to find points of contact between apparently antithetical schools of thought. Characterizes his aestheticism as a syncretic response to the intellectual conflicts and transitional character of the late Victorian period. Surveys his major works and situates him in relation to British empiricism and positivism; the theological writings of Mansel; Darwinian science; liberalism; controversies over the Higher Criticism of the Bible; and British Hegelianism.
Hext, Kate. Walter Pater: Individualism and Aesthetic Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.
Argues that Pater’s aestheticism is a form of ‘late Romantic individualism’. Reads Pater’s work as a series of efforts to preserve an ideal of a creative, perdurable self that he felt was threatened by empiricist philosophy and evolutionary science, as well as by its own unruly desires and the fact of mortality. Traces Pater’s engagements with a range of philosophers, including Hume, Locke, and Schiller. Stresses his fluid, eclectic response to German Idealism, the conflicted quality of his thinking, and his underlying psychological attachment to metaphysics and Christianity. Draws upon Pater’s unpublished manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard.
Inman, Billie Andrew. Walter Pater’s Reading: A Bibliography of his Library Borrowings and Literary References, 1858-1873 (1981) and Walter Pater and His Reading, 1874-1877: With a Bibliograpy of His Library Borrowings, 1878-1894 (1990). New York: Garland Publishing.
In two volumes. Charts Pater’s intellectual life through the books he owned, his literary allusions, and his library borrowings. Provides detailed annotations on his reading, and contextualizes the material in relation to his biography, the history of literature and ideas, and Victorian culture.
Iser, Wolfgang. Walter Pater: The Aesthetic Moment. Translated by David Henry Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
First published in German in 1960, and re-published in English translation with a new preface by the author. Reads Pater’s work according to the principles of the New Criticism but also uses him to explore the premises and constraints of that methodology, particularly its emphasis upon the autonomy of art. Often suggests Pater’s importance as a late nineteenth-century thinker and highlights continuities between his work and the philosophies of Hegel and Kierkegaard. Situates Pater in relation to the Victorian history of ideas, and characterizes him a transitional figure in search of legitimation and a means of unifying his diverse and often conflicting intellectual and aesthetic commitments.
Loesberg, Jonathan. Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and de Man. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Argues that Pater’s aestheticism anticipates the deconstruction of Derrida and de Man, and uses his work to clarify the stakes of modern theoretical debates. Defends both aestheticism and deconstruction against the common charge that they amount to relativism, nihilism, or political quietism, and shows how Pater uses aestheticism to illuminate key problems within the history of philosophy. Includes extensive discussion of the meaning of ‘art for art’s sake’ and uses Studies in the History of the Renaissance to demonstrate that Pater uses aestheticism to locate contradictions within empiricist epistemologies.
McGrath, F. C. The Sensible Spirit: Walter Pater and the Modernist Paradigm. Tampa: University of South Florida Press, 1986.
Provides a synoptic analysis of Pater’s engagements with modern philosophy, particularly British empiricism and German idealism, and traces the influence of his work in the literature of high modernism. Argues that Pater’s work represents a distinctive, synthetic response to the philosophies of Hegel, Hume, Kant, Schelling, and Schiller, and that the influence of Pater’s synthesis can be discerned in the works of T. S. Eliot, Joyce, Pound, Woolf, and Yeats.
McKenzie, Gordon. The Literary Character of Walter Pater. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
Published posthumously. Attempts to recover the more serious, moral, and religious dimensions of Pater’s work. Individual chapters address Pater’s mythology and symbolism; his philosophy; his fiction; and his criticism. Offers general discussions of most of Pater’s key works.
Meisel, Perry. The Absent Father: Virginia Woolf and Walter Pater. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.
Argues that Pater exerted a more powerful influence upon Woolf’s work than any other literary precursor. Discusses Woolf’s relationship with Pater’s sister Clara, and argues that Woolf’s signature themes, rhetorical strategies, and sensibility as an essayist are all markedly Paterian. Reads Woolf’s relationship to Pater in psychoanalytic terms, and suggests that she sought to repress his paternal authority and overcome his overwhelming influence.
Monsman, Gerald. Pater’s Portraits: Mythic Pattern in the Fiction of Walter Pater. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967.
Argues that Pater’s fiction is centered upon the theme of ‘renaissance’ or cultural awakening, which he understood in mythic terms as a reconciliation of Apollonian and Dionysian principles. Traces this mythic pattern through Pater’s œuvre, beginning with ‘Diaphaneitè’ and including ‘The Child in the House’, Marius the Epicurean, Imaginary Portraits, and the ‘uncollected’ portraits (‘Hippolytus Veiled’, ‘Emerald Uthwart’, and the fragments, ‘Tibalt the Albigense’ and ‘Gaudioso, the Second’).
Monsman, Gerald. Walter Pater. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977.
Follows the template of the Twayne Authors and their Work series. Provides an introduction to Pater’s biography, works, intellectual influences, and historical context, including close readings of some key works. Details Pater’s undergraduate life and intellectual development at Oxford University, and offers succinct analysis of each decade of his writing career.
Monsman, Gerald. Walter Pater’s Art of Autobiography. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.
Reads Pater’s fictional works as a series of experiments in veiled autobiography. Concentrates on his Imaginary Portraits, Marius the Epicurean, and Gaston de Latour, and suggests that these texts encode Pater’s psychological conflicts, especially his grief over the early deaths of his parents and his brother William in 1887. Argues that Pater’s intense self-reflexivity and insight into the unstable, shadowy nature of subjectivity aligns his work with currents in contemporary literature and critical theory, specifically the work of Jorges Louis Borges, Roland Barthes, Harold Bloom, and J. Hillis Miller.
O’Keefe, Janice A., and O’Keefe, Robert. Walter Pater and the Gods of Disorder. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1988.
Interprets Pater’s œuvre and biography through the prism of his engagements with Victorian Hellenism, with a particular focus on his creative responses to ancient Greek mythology and his proto-Nietzschean conceptualization of the opposition between Dionysus and Apollo. Posits a shift from a revolutionary, Dionysian Hellenism in Pater’s early work to a repressive, Apollonian Hellenism in his later career.
Østermark-Johansen, Lene. Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.
Examines Pater’s relationships with different artistic media, with a special focus on sculpture and the technique of relief, and his engagements with aesthetic theory from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Chapters address ‘Pater and the Italian Renaissance Paragone‘ (that is, the notion that different artistic media are engaged in imaginative rivalry); ‘Pater and German Aesthetic Thought’ (with particular attention to his engagements with Lessing and Winckelmann); ‘Pater and French Aestheticism’ (focused on Pater’s responses to Baudelaire and Gautier); ‘Pater and Aestheticist Painting’ (highlights his encounters with the paintings of Whistler and Burne-Jones); ‘Pater and Greek Sculpture’ (situates his work in relation to the new prestige of anthropological and archeological methods for studying ancient Greek culture at the University of Oxford in the late Victorian period); and ‘Style and the Language of Sculpture’ (includes analysis of his responses to Wordsworth and Flaubert).
Shuter, William F. Rereading Walter Pater. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Seeks to complicate the standard critical distinction between an early, radical Pater and an older, more conservative, and self-censoring Pater. Reads Pater’s œuvre as a series of ‘reshuffled’ texts and examines his habits of self-quotation and self-revision, showing how the recurrence of particular motifs and concepts across his works demands an intensive form of critical re-reading attuned to his self-reflexivity. Devotes particular attention to the evolution of Pater’s relationship to religion, and to his intellectual and institutional context at Oxford University.
Ward, Anthony. Walter Pater: The Idea in Nature. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1966.
Suggests that nostalgia is the keynote of Pater’s work, and understands him as a basically conservative thinker who struggled to find security amid the intellectual fragmentation and religious upheavals of his age. Emphasizes the influence of Hegel and Goethe upon Pater’s thinking, and discusses most of his major works. Positions Pater as an essentially modern thinker who sought to reconcile empiricist and idealist commitments.
Whiteley, Giles. Aestheticism and the Philosophy of Death: Walter Pater and Post-Hegelian Philosophy. Oxford: Legenda, 2010.
Reads Pater’s œuvre as a complex dialogue with, and critique of, Hegel. Focuses on Pater’s unpublished, fragmentary manuscript on the history of philosophy held at the Houghton Library, Harvard, and argues that Pater’s Imaginary Portraits reveal the sophistication and critical force of his reading of Hegel, which dovetails with Nietzsche’s work in key respects and prefigures the ‘post-Hegelian’ philosophies of Bataille, Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault.
Williams, Carolyn. Transfigured World: Walter Pater’s Aesthetic Historicism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Argues that Pater’s work centres upon a productive dialectic between historicist and aestheticist impulses. Provides extended close readings of key works and demonstrates how Pater’s rhetorical strategies enable him to negotiate problems of epistemology and representation. Devotes particular attention to Pater’s efforts to find larger historical patterns and extrapolate general theories of art and culture from the special, transfigurative moment or the individual case. Analyzes Pater’s secularization of Christian typology and his efforts to represent modern temporality.