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Symons, Browning, and the Development of the Modern Aesthetic

Karl Beckson and John M. Munro
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 10, No. 4, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1970), pp. 687-699
Published by: Rice University
DOI: 10.2307/449709
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449709
Page Count: 13
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Symons, Browning, and the Development of the Modern Aesthetic
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Abstract

Arthur Symons, who occupies a central place in the development of the modern aesthetic, derived his idea of the symbolic moment from his understanding of Pater, the French Symbolists, and Browning. Symons's admiration of Pater and the French Symbolists is, of course, well known, but less widely known is his devotion to Browning's verse, which, indeed, he imitated early in his career and about which he wrote a full-length study in 1886. In this work, Symons established connections between Browning's technique of revealing the "soul to itself" in a single moment and Pater's belief that significant moments embody "the greatest number of vital forces" in their "purest energy." Both Browning and Pater prepared Symons for his understanding of what the French Symbolists intended. In formulating his aesthetic, Symons thus anticipated such later concepts as Joyce's "epiphany," Pound's "image," and Virginia Woolf's "moment of being."

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