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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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Postscript: The Good Frenchman

Postscript: The Good Frenchman

(p.291) 11 Postscript: The Good Frenchman
The Classic

Christopher Prendergast (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Arguably the main point of reading French critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve on the subject of the classic is that he was one of the last to use the term with the confidence that came from a history of which he felt himself to be, belatedly but coherently, a part. On the other hand, reinforcing that confidence — shoring up the foundations — required some fairly desperate spadework in the trenches, into which he himself was to fall, as confidence — and with it coherence — simply leaked away before the demands of sustaining the viability of the term in relation to his own contemporaries. This debacle in Sainte-Beuve's thinking sprang from an inability or, more wilfully, a refusal to extend his remarkable gifts of critical ‘sympathy’ to the very figures who are now routinely classified as ‘modern classics’: Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, and Baudelaire.

Keywords:   literary criticism, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, classic, intellectual history, French literature, modern literature, culture, France, politics

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