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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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Origins and the Middle Ages

Origins and the Middle Ages

(p.152) 6 Origins and the Middle Ages
The Classic

Christopher Prendergast (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The appropriation of far-flung zones of antiquity to the cause of national awakening in Germany took hold in another major crucible of the 19th-century culture wars: the Middle Ages. Broadly speaking, this period did not greatly interest French critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, his essentially classical frame of mind inuring him against the seductions of Romantic medievalist revivalism. In his 1850 essay ‘Qu'est-ce qu'un classique?’, it makes its way onto the slopes of Montserrat, but the inclusion is a perfunctory one, presumably because, whatever their appeal, the Middle Ages also lack the capital virtues of order and coherence. Where French medieval literature was concerned, Sainte-Beuve's attention span was short, and his judgements sporadic and unfocused. Sainte-Beuve sees French literature as ‘beginning’ in the 16th century, although this was, of course, an evaluative rather than a strictly historical judgement.

Keywords:   Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, classic, literary criticism, France, French literature, Middle Ages, medieval literature

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