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Irving Babbitt (abstract)

  • Irving Babbitt. The New Laokoon: An Essay on the Confusion of the Arts. Boston: Houghton, 1910.
BABBITT OPENS this two-part treatise with a re-  evaluation of the confusion in the eighteenth-century arts identified by Lessing. Rather than mark the distinction, however, between spatial and temporal forms, Babbitt marks the distinction between classic and pseudo-classic interpretations of mimesis in Aristotle. The pseudo-classic insists upon the imitation of artistic models, while the true Aristotelian insists upon the imitation and improvement of nature.
    Babbitt then  identifies a similar confusion in the Modern period, between Classic and Romantic; he further divides the Romantic into Platonist and pseudo-Platonist. He argues that Romanticism fails because it confuses spontaneity with creativity, and classicism with dullness.
    In the end, Babbitt calls for a greater self-restraint on the part of the artist, emphasizing a straightforward understanding of genres, rather than the intellectual and emotional muddle which is Romanticism.
    Despite its implicit claim to continue the discussion that Lessing began, this book makes little or no contribution to the critical discussion of the relationship between spatial and temporal arts. (David Beard.)

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: <http://umn.edu/home/mh/txtimdb5.html>

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Created 24 December 1997