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British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece: Hellenism, by S. Evangelista

By S. Evangelista

This publication is the 1st accomplished examine of the reception of classical Greece between English aesthetic writers of the 19th century. by means of exploring this background of reception, it goals to offer readers a brand new and fuller realizing of literary aestheticism, its highbrow contexts, and its demanding situations to mainstream Victorian tradition.

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Additional resources for British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece: Hellenism, Reception, Gods in Exile

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But the image of the brutally destroyed pre-classical Athens also prefigures the wreck of pagan culture by the hand of Christianity, a topic that he had already treated with emotional intensity in ‘Winckelmann’. As in ‘Winckelmann’, in these essays Pater tries to make Greek paganism attractive to his readers by impressing them with its strong artistic tradition. And, as in ‘Winckelmann’, a large part of the appeal of pagan culture resides in its promise of sexual freedom in a context in which desire and gratification are not at odds with moral and social codes.

14 From the dead marble desire is transferred onto the live flesh: it is embodied, reclaimed from the ancient past, and re-historicised into the eighteenth century. The homoeroticism that pervades the analysis of the Apollo Belvedere is echoed in several well-known passages of the History, such as the descriptions of the Belvedere Antinous and the Belvedere Torso. 15 This proposition deserves further attention. Pater, ‘Winckelmann’, and the Aesthetic Life 31 Winckelmann not only vindicates the legitimacy of homoerotic desire by showing its noble Greek ancestry, as it were, but constructs it as a mark of cultural distinction: it is a special register that the modern intellectual needs to acquire before he (for it is always a ‘he’ in Winckelmann) can come to a full appreciation of ancient art.

An eternal springtime, like that of the blissful Elysian Fields, clothes the alluring virility of mature years with a pleasing youth and plays with soft tenderness upon the lofty structure of his limbs. Go with thy spirit into the realm of incorporeal beauties and seek to become a creator of a heavenly nature, so that the spirit might be filled with beauties that rise above nature – for here there is nothing mortal, nothing that betokens miserable humanity [ . ]. His sublime gaze, as if peering into infinity, reaches out from the height of his contentment to far beyond his victory.

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