RLFR 211(F) The Poetry of Revolution and Modernism: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarme
With modernism begins a revolt that writes itself in as well as against language. Poetry in France, especially from 1850 on, initiates a revolution. It seeks to subvert the world and the word, to open consciousness to untried experiences of the real, and to call into question the forms of representation by which society and culture maintain their power. The course will focus attention on the subversive intent of three major nineteenth-century poets whose works attempt to create a truly revolutionary and modern consciousness which will define French literature and criticism well into the late-twentieth century. Subjects to be discussed in depth will include: (1) the search for the unknown; (2) the escape from the everyday world; (3) the attitude toward nature and the modern city; (4) the use of symbol and allegory; (5) the power of memory in poetic re-creation; (6) the nature of the prose poem as a new modernist genre; (7) the genesis of symbolism; (8) the place of love and fantasy in poetic experience; and (9) the relation of music (Claude Debussy, Pierre Boulez, Jim Morrison) to poetic expression. In particular, the works of each poet will be discussed in relation to the historical and cultural events of the time: Baudelaire and the modernization of Paris and Second Empire style; Rimbaud and the insurrection of the Paris Commune; Mallarme and fin-de-siecle and symbolist aesthetics. Readings will include Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal and Le Spleen de Paris; Rimbaud's early poems, Une Saison en enfer, and Les Illuminations; and Mallarme's Poesies; plus critical writings by Benjamin, Blanchot, Kristeva, and Bonnefoy. Conducted in French. Requirements: active participation in class discussions, two papers, two one hour exams, and oral class presentations. Prerequisites: French 109 or 110 or permission of the instructor.