Men and Women and the Arts of Love

Gray, Erik I.

Men and Women constitutes a type of paragone. The paragone was a genre of Renaissance aesthetic philosophy in which one form of art was compared to others and declared superior; notable examples include Leonardo da Vinci’s treatise on painting (pub. 1651) and, in English, Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defence of Poesy (pub. 1595). Very few of Browning’s poems follow this model of explicitly arguing for the superiority of one art form —- the exception being “Abt Vogler,” from the 1864 collection Dramatis Personae, to which I return at the end of this essay. But the paragone developed in later centuries so that, without declaring a single winner, the author evaluated the advantages and limitations of different arts, as G. E. Lessing does in his landmark Laocoon: On the Limits of Painting and Poetry (1766). This is the pattern followed by “One Word More” and several other poems in Men and Women, as well as by the collection as a whole, which constantly considers and distinguishes between painting, music, and poetry as expressions of love. In this way Men and Women forms one of the nineteenth century’s most important investigations into the relation between aesthetic and erotic feeling.



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Victorian Poetry

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
West Virginia University Press
Published Here
May 18, 2015