For Strich each nation had a specific mission in the development of this "spirit" of Europe, and its contribution "reveal[ed] its own innermost character." E.g., France bequeathed to Europe the rule of reason, "transcending any place, any time," yet "this rational spirit of French literature [was] also a very national spirit." The French classical spirit dominated the arts until Germany found its moment and, with Romanticism, carried other nations before it in breaking the bonds imposed by the regimentation of classicism.
Strich modifies somewhat the "ethnological" aspect of Texte's account of cosmopolitanism, and, in the article from which I have quoted him above, published in 1930, he also problematizes what is exactly meant by "European."
|Leslie Stephen, ca. 1860,|
before he was Virginia Woolf's father
In the end, Voltaire remained true to his French roots and to the Academy. The classical rules in art, according to Stephen, did not allow literary expression of the deepest subjects; that was the realm of religion. What Rousseau got from Richardson was the legitimacy for expressing sentiments directly. By introducing "enthusiasm" into French letters, however, Rousseau was engaging in genuine revolt against the established order, unlike Richardson, whose "frank utterance of common sentiments and freedom in dealing with common subjects" was not revolutionary in a country that had never possessed an Academy in the true sense.
In conclusion, Stephen criticizes what he calls this "scientific" approach to literature, the search for causes in the development of literary and artistic phenomena. Critics are always trying to trace origins, for instance, of "romanticism" and so on, and then speak
as though its first representative had made a discovery of a new product as a chemist discovers a gas which nobody had ever before perceived. Rousseau, or somebody else, has then the credit of all the subsequent developments, as Watt gets the credit of the steam engine. Each new critic pushes the origin a little further back, because in reality there is no origin but only a gradual change of form.
Picture credit: Science and Literature Reading Group