By Brian Trehearne
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Additional info for Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence
Peckham resolves in these terms the central tension underlying the history of Modernism. E. Chamberlin's "From High Decadence to High Modernism" arrives at conclusions with a different emphasis from those of Peckham, but which support his central vision of artists under wilful creative pressure: "The paradoxical conjunction of beauty and despair, of joy and sorrow, is one which poetry has always employed ... "14 But the chief aesthetic link to be found between Aestheticism and Modernism, according to Chamberlin, is their mutual antagonism to the vulgarization of the arts taking place in an increasingly democratic and literate culture: Both, in ways that are congruent, were informed by an almost puritan zeal to maintain standards appropriate to what were received as the sacred values of art, and to protect these values against compromise ...
Light, which had fascinated the French Impressionist painters, became "the 44 Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists soul of impressionist literature" as well,31 since it created particularly rapid and fleeting sensations of flux, as the sun passes through broken cloud across a landscape, or as a striking face hovers briefly in the outer edge of candlelight. There is a fundamental contradiction in the Impressionist pursuit, of course: on the one hand the Aesthete seeks to acknowledge quite frankly the lack of solidity and stability in his situation, thereby submitting joyfully to the flux, while on the other he struggles rhetorically against the flux, to stop time, in order to maintain the beauty and intensity he has chanced upon - another example of the fear of natural processes inherent in Aestheticism.
Moreover, there was in the Imagist movement a special emphasis on metaphor as the most effective mode of presentation. 20 According to Hugh Kenner, "Dowson, Lionel Johnson, John Gray, 'Fiona MacleocT ... "21 While convinced that the Decadents brought the "new convention" to a "dead end" (Kenner, 186), which Imagism managed to avoid, Kenner admits nevertheless that their "aesthetic of glimpses contained possibilities: for note that Symons' 'Pastel,' but for being rhymed, corresponds exactly to what Imagist poems are often supposed to be.
Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence by Brian Trehearne