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The Sacred in Pater’s Aesthetic

Ambivalences and Tensions

Maria Luisa De Rinaldis    Università degli Studi del Salento, Italia    



Walter Pater’s aesthetic is shaped by the tension between the spiritual and the material, the pure and the impure. While his contemporaries appreciate the purity of his art, it should be understood that concerns with the material impure also inform, among other works, the two narratives Denys l’Auxerrois and Gaudioso, the Second. This analysis shows how Pater’s dual aesthetic affects his understanding of the category of the sacred, in line with contemporary anthropological thought. The representations of Denys, a modern embodiment of the Greek god Dionysus, and of Gaudioso the saint subvert dominant ideologies of productivity and progress, suggesting a renewed experience of the sacred. The aesthetic and the sacred are thus positioned as interlinked spaces for the expression of the repressed and the displaced, while Pater’s sense of the sacred is significantly re-oriented towards the human.

Dec. 1, 2015

Keywords: AnthropologyWalter PaterSacredImpure

Copyright: © 2015 Maria Luisa De Rinaldis. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.