Personification at the Critical Threshold: Walter Pater and Angus Fletcher

Callum Zeff

Abstract


In this paper I argue that Walter Pater, in both his critical and creative work, is a liminal writer along the lines set out by Angus Fletcher in his studies of Edmund Spenser and S.T. Coleridge. Fletcher suggests that personification or prosopopoeia (literally "person-making") results from "thresholdness", and I relate this observation not only to Pater's employment of personification, e.g. "art comes professing frankly", but his tendency to equate works of art with persons and vice-versa. Pater's work focuses on transitional eras of culture and on transitional minds, historical, semi-historical and imaginary, as in his "Imaginary Portraits". I argue that it is because of Pater's constant transition from experience to experience, his constant in-between state, that he invents characters which are neither wholly allegorical personifications nor fleshed out humans; that he tends to associate aesthetic experience with "the face of one's friend"; and that his work hovers between the creative and the critical.


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