Differing from some contemporary critics, Mr. Donoghue believes that verse drama is a major creative art-form of our literature, with a vigorous present and promise of a vital future. In a persuasive and perceptive exposition of this belief, he considers such questions as the nature of dramatic verse, the mood play, the relation between dramatic verse and the behavior of speech, the necessity of distinguishing between "verse drama" and “poetic drama” or “theatre poetry.”
Originally published in 1963.
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Substituting sensationalism for sensation and reading Pater’s claim for hedonism, or pleasures the soul might savor, as outright decadence, Pater’s detractors far outnumbered and outranked his followers (including his fellow Oxonian and most notorious devotee, Oscar Wilde). But ever since Pater has proved, at least in the high arts, the decisive victor of the revolutions he set into motion.
Denis Donoghue presents what will stand as the premier inquiry into Walter Pater’s life and ideas: a work of compelling erudition unrivaled in intuitive and intellectual force, revealing with eloquence, charm, and abundant yet measured discourse Pater’s centrality to the entire modernist movement. “Pater is audible,” Donoghue writes, “in virtually every attentive modern writer—in Hopkins, Wilde, James, Yeats, Pound, Ford, Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Aiken, Hart Crane, Fitzgerald, Forster, Borges, Stevens.”
Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls is both an education and an inspiration for anyone at all concerned with the changing character of latter-day Western culture. Here, without question, is a classic: a critical biography that lays open the very making of the culture that both assails and sustains us.
Donoghue bestows the term classic on just five American works: Melville’s Moby-Dick, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Thoreau’s Walden, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Examining each in a separate chapter, he discusses how the writings have been received and interpreted, and he offers his own contemporary readings, suggesting, for example, that in the post–9/11 era, Moby-Dick may be rewardingly read as a revenge tragedy. Donoghue extends an irresistible invitation to open the pages of these American classics again, demonstrating with wit and acuity how very much they have to say to us now.