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The ClassicSainte-Beuve and the Nineteenth-Century Culture Wars$
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Christopher Prendergast

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199215850

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215850.001.0001

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The Modern Classic

The Modern Classic

(p.260) 10 The Modern Classic
The Classic

Christopher Prendergast (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The usefulness for Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve of the peculiar analogy that he occasionally drew between the critic and the doctor lay primarily in justifying an approach to the literature of his own time, the critical arts directed to taking the pulse and temperature of a century suspected of running a fever bordering at times on delirium. Sainte-Beuve was brought face to face with the question of whether there was, or there could be, such a thing as the ‘modern classic’. The ideology in which Sainte-Beuve ensnared himself, and, for his public role as critic, came laden with paradoxes. In the invitation that the modern work offers to interpretation, one of the conditions that make criticism possible stands out. Historically, as Sainte-Beuve himself maintains, literary modernity is coincident with and constitutive of the enterprise of literary criticism.

Keywords:   Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, classic, France, literary criticism, modern literature, First Empire, politics

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