The Persistence of Beauty: Victorians to Moderns

persistence_of_beautyIs beauty an enduring quality of great art and literature? Or is the perception of something as beautiful merely a subjective response? A new collection of essays, edited by Michael O’Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton, examines the cultural, literary, philosophical and historical representation of beauty in British, Irish and American literature.

By examining a range of literary works, from Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë to W H Auden and Stephen Spender, The Persistence of Beauty breathes fresh life into a long philosophical debate about aesthetics. Contributors reflect on the implications of genre for the way in which a writer deals with “beauty,” and how the idea, or “ideal,” of beauty changes across time and literary periods.

A novel or poem can be beautiful even when it questions what beauty might mean or whether beauty has value

The book sustains the historical thesis that, in the wake of Romanticism, beauty is “in trouble,” and that exploring such trouble has had perplexing but richly rewarding aesthetic results.

The Persistence of Beauty is available now, from Pickering and Chatto. You can preview the introduction to the collection below or via Scribd.


Introduction – Michael O’Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton
Female Beauty and Portraits of Self-Effacement in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre – Sarah Wootton
Dickens and The Line of Beauty – Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
‘Ugly Meanings in Beautiful Things’: Reading the First Wilde Trial – Simon J James
The Beauties of T S Eliot – Seamus Perry
‘The Enigmatical Beauty of Each Beautiful Enigma’: The Persistence of Beauty and Death in the Poetics of Walt Whitman and Wallace Stevens – Mark Sandy
W H Auden: The Loveliness that is the Case – Tony Sharpe
Something in the Works: Frost, Bishop, and the Idea of Beauty – Angela Leighton
The Difficulty of Beauty: Hopkins, Yeats, Hart Crane, Spender – Michael O’Neill
‘Beauty in Trouble’: Robert Graves and Louis MacNeice – Fran Brearton
Beauty is Death – Timothy Morton


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