Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (21 April 1828 – 5 March 1893) was a French critic and historian. He was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism. Literary historicism as a critical movement has been said to originate with him. Taine is particularly remembered for his three-pronged approach to the contextual study of a work of art, based on the aspects of what he called "race, milieu, and moment".
Taine had a profound effect on French literature; the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica asserted that "the tone which pervades the works of Zola, Bourget and Maupassant can be immediately attributed to the influence we call Taine's."
Taine was born in Vouziers, but entered a boarding school, the Institution Mathé, whose classes were conducted at the Collège Bourbon, at the age of 13 in 1841, after the death of his father. He excelled as a student, receiving a number of prizes in both scientific and humanistic subjects, and taking two Baccalauréat degrees at the École Normale before he was 20. Taine's contrarian politics led to difficulties keeping teaching posts, and his early academic career was decidedly mixed; he failed the exam for the national Concours d'Agrégation in 1851. After his dissertation on sensation was rejected, he abandoned his studies in the social sciences, feeling that literature was safer. He completed a doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1853, with considerably more success in his new field; his dissertation, Essai sur les fables de La Fontaine, won him a prize from the Académie française...
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