The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars

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He also provides an intellectual history that travels across multiple disciplinaryterritories in addition to literary criticism and literary history, classical studies, comparative philology, historiography and political thought. Against this background, The Classic maps the evolution of Sainte-Beuve's thought from an initially cosmopolitan conception of the classic close in spirit to Goethe's notion of Weltliteratur to an increasingly nationalist conception, with a strong emphasis on the heritage of Latinity and France as its principal legatee.

This emphasis was taken up by the extreme right in France after Sainte-Beuve's death, in a determined mobilizing of a version of the 'classic' on behalf of aproto-fascist agenda. The final chapter deals with this appropriation and ends with a question of our own about Sainte-Beuve's original question: in the light of this bleak history, perhaps the time has come to dispense with the term 'classic' altogether.

The pleasures of reading Horace are also of this countervailing type. It is of advantage to the economy of a literature if a large stock of such goods is available. But the situation is alarming if the literature does not maintain a consciousness of the difference in level which is at the same time a difference in essence —and this should be the task of criticism. French Classicism did not avoid this danger, perhaps did not see it.

This is true even of the great Sainte-Beuve. The full list of comparable examples from the Lundis and elsewhere is depressingly long. Yet it would be an error to construe this as merely antiquarian curiosity run amok. In a word, Pasquier, where he is sound, offers us the most beautiful form of ordinariness in the language of the sixteenth century.

These writers, soldiers, or magistrates, at the same time that they represent themselves, also represent and describe for us men of their kind, their colour or their camp CL iii. His is a French mind, bourgeois, worthy, and well-tempered. For this to stand, Proust and Sainte-Beuve would have to have inhabited the same universe of literary values. Coulmann, in his memoirs, pleases me precisely by virtue of his lack of originality: he is the honest and straightforward expression of the milieu in which he lives, and whose temperature he exactly registers, undisturbed by any addition of individuality NL ix.

Grasping the national literary tradition involves a profound respect for its routines. Bloud, , In this context, the mediocre could be assigned a dutiful place in a common pursuit. The view of literary culture as made from a. Je le regrette. I regret this. Well chosen, handled within its own frame of reference, laced with a touch of taste and decorum, the academic encomium, the academic discourse has its own value.


Of these the two most important were the Library and the Academy. The Library. But we might want to add that the model of the salon itself assumes a distinctly club-like aspect Sainte-Beuve, — In the article on Bossuet, Sainte-Beuve muses on what the seventeenth century might have been without Louis.

The sentence in the Louis XIV manner, or what has been called such, is ample, a little long, but majestic. The language spoken by this great king was truly in accord with that spoken or written in his time by the most eloquent and well spoken of the writers; between one and the other there is perfect agreement and harmony. Yet this Sainte-Beuve could not quite bring himself to do. One could truly say that he already has in view the eighteenth century and something of the nineteenth century.

France, whatever its appetite and wish for liberty, is a country where authority, when it is backed by ancient precedent and due form, does not displease. This difference can be summarized in two words: Court and Democracy. On the other hand, the frame is momentarily allowed to bend, but not to break. This was formulated as the idea of a state literature. Like most such dreams of cultural transplant, it deteriorates rapidly at the moment of contact with reality. In this he differed from the functionary literati such as Desmarets and Perrault, who respectively placed themselves entirely at the disposal of the great administrative machines of Richelieu and Colbert.

Desmarets under Richelieu. Every time, after a long upheaval, the political order is repaired and resumes its steady march, the literary order tends to adjust harmoniously to this development and to follow it as best it can CL i. Every great period produces those minds made above all to serve. If Boileau sought to secure the autonomy of literature, he did not mean autonomy in the modern sense of the oppositional and the alienated.

During the Revolution, Latin was seen as an instrument for inculcating a love of republican virtue.

Loraux and P. Arago makes a reappearance, in the familiar position of. John Howe London, , But, however unusual, Bastiat was not alone in this view. Latinity and the Second Renaissance We shall have occasion to return to this relation again, and indeed to this particular passage. For those who come after, the. There is a tradition: who would deny this? It exists for us fully marked, visible like one of those immense, grandiose avenues and ways that once upon a time traversed the Empire, and that led to the City par excellence.

Descendants of the Romans or at least adoptive children of the Latin race, that race itself initiated into the cult of the beautiful by the Greeks, it falls to us to embrace, to understand, never to desert the heritage of those masters and those illustrious forebears. See Ruth E. To be sure, the Graecia capta ferum … lies at the bottom of everything: it is the point of departure. The point is no mere analytical one; whenever it is a question of France, Rome, and the empire of Latinity, Beuvian prose shows an instant tendency to move from the soberly matter-of-fact into the register of the grandly rotund.

From Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Lucan all the way to us the slope is even, the perspective is true and unbroken; nothing separates us from it. In the meantime, we might usefully turn to the late articles on Du Bellay their lateness perhaps an index of their representing his considered and settled opinion on the matter. Du Bellay, in his own moment, is a classic in the full sense of the term, a classic which holds that we half-invent, that we transplant, that we graft and that we perfect in the French manner … What it was to be a classic, in the sense conceived by Du Bellay, and how it has been in France up until the time of our own youth, we all know full well, and have borne witness to it.

Although Sainte-Beuve detested being faced with choices of this kind and the choice between Greece and Rome more than most , he goes with the historical grain of his own culture in leaning towards Rome. In political discourse, it was caught up in a shifting play of interpretations and allegiances, broadly in conjunction with the changing and competing values attached to two other ancient cities, Sparta and Athens.

But the uses of Athens for the legitimation of modern commercial society came back into force during the nineteenth century. Constant was tempted by it, though held back on the grounds previously given by Condorcet, Volney, and others. On the other hand, most of this would have passed him by. For what, in these various appropriations of antiquity, was missing from the trio of republican Rome, militaristic Sparta, and commercial Athens is the only instance from antiquity that inspired what political imagination Sainte-Beuve possessed: imperial Rome.

We shall see more of this later, in a series of bleakly grotesque parallels between past and present. Giulio Lepschy, 4; London, , George Wolf. At the bottom of these speculations lurked a fundamental disdain for reason. This personal side is revealed in the expression Indo-Germanic, coined in order to designate one of the great language families.

The Classic : Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars -

Koerner, vol. The argument he built on this primal enthusiasm can be schematically resumed by way of four general moves. But, if he espoused the counter-theory of the polygenetic descent of the languages of mankind, this had nothing in common with the secular free thinkers of the Enlightenment who, subject to certain prejudices, sought to acknowledge both the diversity and equality of human tongues. The value of the polygenetic explanation to Schlegel lay in the extent to which it helped him to secure the absolute and unconditional separation of the language families and crucially Indo- Germanic from one another.

Polygenesis supplied the intellectual pedigree for a doctrine of linguistic apartheid.

The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars

In the beginning was Sanskrit and, when that did not seem to work very plausibly, it became proto-Sanskrit. This was further linked to a story of decay and fall: in the beginning was Sanskrit or proto-Sanskrit , and Sanskrit was the purest of them all.

First there was the standard hostility to Semitic. In Symbolik und Mythologie he sought to locate the origins of monotheism in Persia and thus to supply an Aryanist lineage for the origins of Christianity that would thereby de-link it from a Judaic antecedent the notion was that Persia was the place of origin for both Christianity and Judaism. Secondly, Creuzer manifested an equally rabid hostility to Latinity and the culture of the derived Romance languages. In the light of recent political events, but also by virtue of the long hegemony of the French neoclassical canon, the urgent imperative was to mobilize the Indic revolution in order to drive a wedge into the bonded Graeco-Roman heritage.

Greece was to be on the side of Germany, in an alliance taking in Persian and Sanskrit, while the Latin-based. This property of modern French was to be variously interpreted.

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In fact, the association of Greek with German goes back to the Lutheran Reformation. Geneva, , i. For various historical and political reasons mainly the insistence, after the fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, that intellectual and academic pursuits be detached from openly political discussion , Paris became a centre of research and debate relatively unencumbered, at least in the earlier part of the century, by the mystico-nationalist fervours of Germany.

In all this he was, as James Darmesteter himself no friend of the mystics said later in the century, animated solely by the spirit of objective enquiry, and it is presumably through no fault of his own that one of his later fans was none other than Richard Wagner who for a while considered basing an opera on his readings of Burnouf.

Conceptually, this took a threefold form. First, he toppled Sanskrit from the pedestal on which Schlegel had placed it; the search, via. Thirdly, he questioned the primacy granted to morphology. George Wolf Stanford, Calif. Even at this stage there was some serious stocktaking. Aux assertions de. Wolf, When this theory is carefully examined, it becomes clear that it adheres most closely to the symbolism of Creuzer. The Heidelberg professor, like Schlegel, also supported his explanations by reference to that faculty of intuition with which man was endowed at his creation, and which revealed to him the mysterious relationships between ideas and signs.

He speaks of gods, myths, and symbols in the same terms that Schlegel speaks of grammatical forms: both refer to a mysterious education that the human race—or at least a privileged portion thereof—received in its infancy. Schlegel supported the assertions of Creuzer on the basis of his newly acquired knowledge of India. This is arguably the best available short encapsulation of the whole saga.

Whereas the latter on the whole stood aloof from wider public opinion, the former were all too avid for some degree of public impact and recognition. His fervent adherence to the Indo-European story was based entirely on his religious beliefs, according to which the origins of Christianity in the Vedic wisdom embraced the whole of the Indo-European family, while privileging no one national component of it; in his oddly focused way, he was an internationalist cosmopolitan see Charles Rearick, Beyond the Enlightenment: Historians and Folklore in Nineteenth-Century France Bloomington, Ind.

Sainte-Beuve was not impressed. What in fact Renan took over from Schlegel were four of the least intellectually reputable of his main propositions. Thirdly he espoused the polygenetic thesis in terms that were pure Schlegel. Abstraction is unknown to them, metaphysics impossible … Imagining an Aristotle or a Kant with a similar instrument is as impossible as conceiving an Iliad or a poem like that of Job written in our metaphysical and complicated languages. One explanation for his relative contempt for Semitic was his predilection for pantheism over monotheism, but the pagan spirit that appealed to him most was less Indic than Greek.

The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars
The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars The Classic: Sainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars

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