A Cadaver in clothes: autobiography and the Dandy in Baudelaire.
Baudelaire's work is far from self-evidently autobiographical. Les Fleurs du mal, for instance, cannot be easily compared to a self-declared poetic autobiography like Hugo's Contemplations where the poems are of decidedly personal inspiration, bear dates that attach them to experience, and lay out a plausible narrative of poetic development. In contrast, Baudelaire's undated poems appear impersonal and, in their emblematic character, untethered to experience. While the poet does give the collection the status of an expressive work in one letter to Ancelle: "Faut-il vous dire, a vous qui ne l'avez pas plus devine que les autres, que dans ce livre atroce, j'ai mis tout mon ceur, toute ma tendresse, toute ma religion (travestie), toute ma haine?"--it is only to take it back right away: "Il est vrai que j'ecrirai le contraire, que je jurerai mes grands Dieux que c'est un livre d'art pur, de singerie, de jonglerie." (1) Whatever the principle of the "secret architecture" of the collection, it is not "the growth of the poet's mind."
Nor are the individual poems clearly self-expressive. It is true that the "Spleen" poems seem to indicate mood, but the mood in question is a dubious one, where the poet's voice is cracked, incapable of striking anything but dissonant notes or sounding a death rattle. The enterprising reader who heads to a poem like "Confession" in search of a genuine autobiographical moment will be disappointed to discover that the confession consists of a discourse "overheard" in the false note of someone else's voice. Itis true that two of the poems--"Je n'ai pas oublie, voisine de la ville ..." and "La servante au grand ceur dont vous etiez jalouse ..."--are by Baudelaire's own avowal retrospective. And yet even there Baudelaire insists that he has done his best to generalize and to strip away the detAlls that might make the intimate scenes identifiable. (2) The famous poem on memory, "Le Cygne," starts out with a literary, not a personal reminiscence ("Andromaque, je pense a vous!" (3)) and moves on to recount an anecdote about an escaped swan wandering on a construction site that, although read by some critics as a literal event, has been thought by many too neat to ring true.
A similar situation obtains elsewhere in the work. Look to the Artificial Paradises for the soul-searching drug narrative of an experienced user, and you will be disappointed. Instead you find stories the author, acting as a sort of scientist, purports to have collected from others. In Le Peintre de la vie moderne, Baudelaire has eschewed the anecdotal style that his friendship with the painter Constantin Guys would have allowed, and has even effaced the name that would anchor the portrait to a referent. Baudelaire's biographers Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler will occasionally wonder whether the most apparently unproblematical of autobiographical texts, Baudelaire's letters to his mother, are not those of a mountebank who poses even in his most intimate moments. (4) In Baudelaire's texts, the personal stylenot all but dispensed with. (5)
The Intimate Journals is a more promising place to look for an autobiographical subject. Indeed, the main piece, Mon cceur mis a nu, was projected as an autobiography perhaps unusual in tone, but not in structure--it was to tell the story of the education of an angry man. (6) But in the project as we have it, Baudelaire has avoided the narrative mode that Lejeune makes a crucial trait of the genre. (7) We don't find a story of the past events of a life, and the usual accouterments of the journal entry--names, dates, places that might somehow affix the fragmentary reflections to the happenings of a life--are mostly missing. Such names as do appear might as easily have been gleaned from a newspaper column as dug out of Baudelaire's own memory, so little do they tell that is personal. When, exceptionally, the poet dates a diatribe against the bourgeoisie, he dates from the century. (8) Baudelaire systematically refrains from providing the sort of detAlls--salty or sentimental--that spice Rousseau's Confessions, and lend that text its aura of authenticity. Indeed, Pichois and Zeigler confess that at least one fragment of the Fusees strikes them rather as a fairy tale than a recital of the facts. (9) To most readers, these texts appear autobiographical only if one neglects the lapidary style reminiscent of the philosophical fragment.
And yet, notwithsAllding all that Baudelaire has done to minimize the reference to experience, there is a persistent, and surely not entirely wrong-headed tendency in Baudelaire criticism to read the text as autobiographical, and indeed to understand his persistent self-masking as a prototypical Baudelairian gesture. It is not just those readers of Les Fleurs du mal who have sought an anecdotal basis to the poems of the sonnet cycles, and have tried to explain them as so many confessions of the poet's relations to the various women in his life--from Sara and Jeanne Duval, to Mme Sabatier or Agathe. Alongside these crude attempts, there exists a more philosophically self-aware group who, following Genette's idea that language can always appear to be metonymically grounded rather than metaphorically motivated, and ranging themselves with Sartre, for whom Baudelaire's work is expressive of "le choix de lui-meme qu'il a fait (etre ceci et non pas cela)," read the text as documenting the I's fundamental gesture of self-constitution. (10) It is not anecdote but the family romance that attracts the attention; privilege is accorded the basic experience of loss, separation and self-identification that lies behind the poet's most basic choices. Recent works by critics of such widely divergent approaches as Bernard Howells, Didier Blonde and Andre Hirt remain Sartrian in their concern with identifying a sort of cogito, a decisive coming into consciousness of which the poems are the expression. (11) This, despite Bataille's strong statement some fifty years ago that it advances our reading of the poems not one whit to undertake such an analysis. (12)
The point here is not to reject the autobiographical reading as wrong-headed, but rather to ask about the problem that Baudelaire's marked preference for impersonal writing poses for an autobiographical reading, and more especially for identification. The discussion will center on the Dandy figure, because it is with that figure that Baudelaire has usually been identified. (13) Running along with these questions will be the intertwined one of representation in poetic language, for it is certainly one of the prerequisites of narratives of identity that language be thought as representational. Even before a Mallarme invokes the failure of representation and the undoing of voice, does Baudelaire move in that direction? Such a poetics might explain Baudelaire's failure to complete his autobiographical project and his general refusal of the personal style. If there is an autobiographical side to a non-representational work, it would have to be located in such suicidal gestures where the poet disappears to foreground the mark.
Preliminary indications that this direction is justified are to be found in the very texts cited in proof of Baudelaire's self-expressiveness by simply paying attention to the impersonal means of saying. Thus, the lapidary style of one fragment--"De la vaporisation et de la centralisation du Moi. Tout est la" (0C I, 676)--makes it sound like an admonishment regarding effective writing strategy, along the lines of those to be round in Conseils aux jeunes litterateurs. An ironic distance opens between the author and the Moi that is worthy of attention. Similarly, in a passage like the following, where Bernard Howells finds incontrovertible proof that for Baudelaire literature is self-expressive, one can find, on the contrary, a doubt. This is what Baudelaire says, in the Salon de 1846, as cited by Howells:
... pour etre juste, c'est-a-dire pour avoir sa raison d'etre, la critique doit etre partiale, passionnee, politique, c'est-a-dire, faite a un point de vue exclusif, mais au point de vue qui ouvre le plus d'horizons ... Ainsi un point de vue plus large sera l'individualisme bien entendu: commander a l'artiste la naivete et l'expression sincere de son temperament, aidee par tous les moyens que lui fournit son metier. (0C II, 418-19) (14)
Howells takes the passage to affirm as Baudelaire's view that the artist's task is "l'individualisme bien entendu." But the passage, which is taken from a chapter called "A quoi bon la critique?" and is expository in style, asserts something else: criticism can profitably adopt the perspective that art should be expressive. But that does not mean that Baudelaire himself professes "l'individualisme bien entendu." He is simply listing individualism as one of several potentially equally fertile aesthetic motivations. (15) He retains the freedom to provide a different perspective, especially if the model of art as self-representational fAlls to exhaust the meaning potential of art.
Our approach to such a different perspective will necessarily seem a bit perverse, for we will have to start by looking for evidence of a failure of the representational perspective, before asking what other perspective Baudelaire might adopt, and what can be gleaned from it about autobiographical writing. We can start no better place than with Sartre and Bataille, whose readings of the place of the Dandy with respect to Baudelaire's poetics can allow us to set out the problems in a few broad strokes.
For to ask about representation in Baudelaire quickly leads to queries about the Dandy, figure at the heart of Sartre's critique and one that "doit vivre et dormir devnot un miroir." (OC II, 678). Here we must contend with Sartre's general suspicion of poetic language. Leiris, in an introduction on the whole very sympathetic to Sartre, nevertheless notes that the philosopher of liberty is "etranger a la poesie.... et parfois d'une raideur singuliere ... envers ceux qui en sont les tenants passionnes" (15). And indeed Sartre's few remarks about Baudelaire's poetics show us a philosopher who toes the Platonic line with respect to representation, at once accepting the premise that language represents what is and subjecting poetry to critique as secondary imitation. Thus Sartre, discussing Baudelaire's interest in evil, likens it to poetry in that both are "deux especes de creation a responsabilite limitee" (69). Sartre spells out at some length why he judges evil this way; in passages that Augustine might have signed, he says that evil remains tributary to a pre-conceived notion of the Good. Just so, it may be inferred from his comparison, poetry is a language relative to the logos; its figures are luxuries derived from, imitative of, the language of proper names. This point is further borne out in Sartre's later discussion of the artist as parasite.
Whereas Sartre judges poetry with distrust, a positive hostility breaks out around the image of the Dandy, as if that figure somehow posed a challenge to his project of determining the Baudelairian cogito. The sore point is the poet's self-representation in his function as poet. With the Dandy, Baudelaire advances masked, not as a living consciousness but as factitious being, or, as Sartre says, as the object he is to others:
Ce regard qu'il dirige sur soi, nous avons vu qu'il l'assimile au regard d'Autrui. Il se voit ou tente de se voir comine s'il etait un autre.... Par la lucidite auto-punitive, Baudelaire tente de se constituer en obiet devant ses propres yeux. (105)
Now this mask is a privileged one, for it is a mask of the producer of masks, the poet. When Baudelaire projects an image of himself as Dandy, he does not simply tell us something derivative; he lies about his own nature, presenting himself not as the living, producing subject that he is, but as he appears to others, as object, image or product. He forebears to give us his cogito or to speak in his own voice and instead provides a vision of an apathetic and insensible poet whose being lies entirely in appearance. The Dandy is "un ideal plus eleve que la poesie," an image of the self as:
parasite des parasites: le Dandy parasite le poete, qui est lui-meme parasite d'une classe d'oppresseurs; par-dela l'artiste, qui cherche encore a creer, il a projete un ideal social de sterilite absolue ou le culte du moi s'identifie a la suppression de soi-meme. (136)
In Sartre's idea, the poet creates something, even if it is only in figures, and as such can tell us a truth about the nature of the subject and its productions. But the Dandy is sterile, oisif, vain. Every bone in Sartre's body--let us not forget that of an artist-philosopher casting his lot in with the proletariat--protests against this image of the artist as non-productive, or, more precisely, as projecting only new forms of ideas already in circulation rather than new ideas in adequate form. (16) With the Dandy, Baudelaire expresses himself in a figure for the death of self-expression. Sartre finds this an impossible position, since the subject never can be anything but a subject for itself, and it is in vain that it tries to imagine itself as for the other:
Il se voit ou tente de se voir comme s'il etait un autre. Et, certainement, il est impossible de se voir vraiment avec les yeux d'Autrui, nous adherons trop a nous-memes. Mais si nous nous coulons dans la robe du juge, si notre conscience reflexive mime le degout et l'indignation a l'egard de la conscience reflechie, si, pour qualifier celle-ci, elle emprunte a la morale apprise ses notions et ses mesures, nous pouvons nous donner un moment l'illusion d'avoir introduit une distance entre le reflechi et la reflexion. Par la lucidite auto-punitive, Baudelaire tente de se constituer en objet devant ses propres yeux. (105; my emphasis)
Instead of re-presenting his constitutive gesture of self-consciousness, Baudelaire is guilty of writing from the position of the other which is the position of the I's death: his horror of responsibility has him "choisir de considerer sa vie du point de vue de la mort, comme si une fin prematuree l'avait soudain figee. A chaque instant, vivant encore, il est deja de l'autre cote de la tombe" (149). Again Sartre points to an impossibility: how to write with one foot in the grave, attached like Benedicta to the tomb, when one is still alive? It is impossible, so wrapped up are we in life, to compose our traits into a death mask. (17)
In a passage cited earlier, Sartre termed the ideal of self-creation an "impossible" ideal for a being who has already to exist before it can serve as pro genitor. Now he has told us that it is impossible to make oneself an object for others, impossible to make one's life into a destiny in advance. Impossibility boils down to a contradiction for Sartre: Baudelaire has set up an ideal image with which he can never fully identify. Instead of positing himself through a cogito, Baudelaire doubles himself, providing a view of himself as both the productive poet he is to himself and as the sterile mask he is to others. The Dandy is a self-representation by which the poet impossibly claires that the poet does not represent what is but what seems merely.
But is not impossibility, construed as pure fiction or the non-representational side to language, precisely the sort of thing that poetry is about? In his review of Sartre's essay included in La Litterature et le mal, Georges Bataille sees as the very crux of Baudelaire's poetry that he wanted "the impossible to the utmost" (54), and makes that the centerpiece of his critique of Sartre. Writes Bataille:
Sartre dit de Baudelaire (c'est le leitmotif de son expose) que le mal etait en lui de vouloir etre la chose qu'il etait pour autrui: il abandonnait ainsi la prerogative de l'existence qui est de demeurer suspendue. Mais l'homme evite-t-il, en general, que la conscience qu'il est, devenant reflexion des choses, ne devienne elle-meme une chose comme une autre. Il me semble que non et que la poesie est le mode selon lequel il lui est loisible, communement ... d'echapper au destin qui le reduit au reflet des choses. (49)
Bataille poses the problem otherwise than Sartre because he has doubts about our freedom to choose not to become objects. The problem is not the choice of inauthenticity, but rather, given a necessary inauthenticity, given consciousness's propensity to become thing-like, what can be the response. For Bataille, poetry offers a chance to free us from out lot. It too ultimately falls prey to reification, but it offers a task that measures up to man, and if it fails, it is nonetheless a proof of its value that it has correctly assessed its task as impossible and its failure as necessary. Baudelaire's answer is poetry because poetry is dissatisfaction, and it takes on the impossible without flinching. Bataille writes:
Inherente a la poesie, il existe une obligation de faire une chose figee d'une insatisfaction. La poesie, en un premier mouvement, detruit les objets qu'elle apprehende, elle les rend, par une destruction, a l'insaisissable fluidite de l'existence du poete, et c'est a ce prix qu'elle espere retrouver l'identite du monde et de l'homme. Mais en meme temps qu'elle opere un dessaisissement, elle tente de saisir ce dessaisissement. Tout ce qu'elle put fut de substituer le dessaisissement aux choses saisies de la vie reduite: elle ne put faire que le dessaisissement ne prit la place des choses. (50)
Bataille traces poetry's double movement: on the one side, it dispossesses things of their prefabricated meaning and makes them fluid; on the other, it fails to remain an act of dispossession, instead substituting itself as reified value for things. In this process the accent is not on self-possession and self-recognition, but on dispossession and dis-identification. Baudelaire chooses poetry because of the restless dissatisfaction of poetry with itself, its unslaked thirst for what, ahead of the Derrida of the gift and the secret, Bataille calls the impossible. For Bataille, poetry is transgressive sacrifice, language not parasitical on but external to the calculations and transactions of the logos, language that, in ceasing to represent things, returns them to their fluidity, and seeks to live up to our thirst for a life that is not bounded by what is.
Poetry's attention to manner put us in the neighborhood of the Dandy, and indeed Bataille sees Baudelaire's Dandyism as related to his desire for the impossible. But for Bataille, Baudelaire's ambition to live as a Dandy was only a pale image of his desire for poetry:
(Baudelaire) le voulut du moins comme il est fatal de vouloir l'impossible, c'est-a-dire, en meme temps, fermement, comme tel et, mensongerement, sous forme de chimere. D'ou sa vie gemissante de dandy avide de travail, amerement enlise dans une oisivete inutile. (53; my emphasis)
"Willed the impossible as such ..." that is, willed it in his poetry; "willed the impossible ... in a lying fashion," that is, in a Dandy's existence. The ordinary assumption is that life is the given, the true, and art is its representation. But here that assumption is reversed: life is the lie, the chimerical form or existential correlative, whereas poetry is the true, the authentic relation to the impossible. The Dandy's life as transgressor is a pale version of the greater transgressions of poetry. Baudelaire's constant reshaping of his image--his hair now cut short, now long, now dyed green, his demand for impeccable linen, his obsessive posing for pnotographer-friends--are all substitutes of a desire for literature, that is, of a restless dissatisfaction with what is. Next to literature, the Dandy's life is a form compromised in advance because the dispossession it operates can never be complete: while it is true that the Dandy's play with old forms allows a limited dispossession, the appearances are never destroyed but are simply recombined and given different significance. He always remains on the near side of the impossible that the poet aires at, and that requires a more thoroughgoing destruction, a sacrifice of representation itself.
The crucial difference dividing Bataille from Sartre over the Baudelairian Dandy thus concerns the status of the impossible with respect to poetry. For Sartre, poetry is representation, a possible world that substitutes for the real one, and the identification of the Dandy with the poet is an impossible, i.e., contradictory attempt to be both object and subject, judging consciousness and thing judged, image and consciousness, himself as he is for others and as he is for himself, mere representation and representing subject. But Bataille sees poetry as driven by a thirst for the impossible, for non-representational language, next to which the Dandy is a footnote, a compromise in a possible world, a representation with which it is fatal for the poet to identify, in the sense that it kills the dream, and perhaps also in the sense that it is inevitable. Impossibility is not a matter of logical contradiction here, but is rather a condition for poetry, which sers itself a double imperative: to dispossess oneself radically of what is through its dispossession of representation, and to seize that dispossession in a unique form.
In an essay tending to adopt Bataille's position on poetic language, it may seem contradictory to privilege the Dandy figure in imitation of Sartre. Yet perhaps Bataille does not do full justice to the figure or indeed to his own insight. For Bataille's remark about Baudelaire's fatal identification with the Dandy is tantalizing: it seems to assert the ineluctability of such an identification without ever exploring the questions that would rise about it. What is to be learned--for autobiography, for identification, for poetic technique--from a representation of the impossible with which the poet must not be identified lest he lose his own best insight and yet with which he must be identified despite himself?
The Dandy as chimerical form of the poet's search for the impossible can conveniently be broached through a text Baudelaire knew very well, Le Dandysme by Barbey D'Aurevilly, before turning to Baudelaire's own fullest exposition of the figure in Le Peintre de la vie moderne. There, Barbey differentiates between a mere clotheshorse and the Dandy. The Dandy distracts our attention away from the functional aspect of clothing to consider it as a problem of manner:
Ce n'est pas un habit qui marche tout seul! au contraire! c'est une certaine maniere de le porter qui cree le Dandysme. On peut etre Dandy avec un habit chiffonne.... Un jour meme, le croirait-on? les Dandys ont eu la fantaisie de l'habit rape. C'etait precisement sous Brummell. Ils etaient a bout d'impertinence, ils n'en pouvaient plus. Ils trouverent celle-la, qui etait si dandie (je ne sais pas un autre mot pour l'exprimer), de faire raper leurs habits avant de les mettre, dans toute l'etendue de l'etoffe, jusqu'a ce qu'elle ne fut plus qu'un espece de dentelle--une nuee. Ils voulaient marcher dans leur nuee, ces dieux! L'operation etait tres delicate et tres longue, et on se servait, pour l'accomplir, d'un morceau de verre aiguise. En bien! voila un veritable fait de Dandysme. L'habit n'y est pour rien. Il n'est presque plus. (18)
By placing the meaning on manner, the Dandy initiates a process of divestment and re-investment. The arduous scraping away of the fabric until the suit is almost lace and can barely serve the minimal protective functions of clothing, is a sign of this double movement. The suit is all but liberated from functionalism and then worked on until it expresses the creative energy of its wearer. In refashioning the ready-made object, the Dandy disestablishes the god of function and sets himself up as a new creator, appearing as a god would, "trailing clouds of glory," "march(ant) dans (sa) nuee."
It is also clear from the anecdote that the scraped garment does not entirely lose its function. The garment "n'est presque plus," which is another way to say "is still a little bit" a garment. The Dandy has worked on it without making it disappear entirely. He rather re-presents the garment otherwise than dispossesses it of all meaning. He shakes the language of clothing loose from its referent of the body and makes it point instead to his own imaginative act.
In at least one of the sections of Le Peintre de la vie moderne, "Pompes and Solennites," Baudelaire has resignification in mind. (19) Baudelaire discusses a picture entitled "La fete commemorative de l'independance dans la cathedrale d'Athenes" in terms of the painter's love of space, perspective and light, but it is chiefly its subject that interests us, in the first place because what the picture is about is re-evaluation, re-presentation. Here is the passage:
M. G. excelle a peindre le faste des scenes officielles, les pompes et les solennites nationales, non pas froidement, didactiquement, comme les peintres qui ne voient dans ces ouvrages que des corvees lucratives, mais avec toute l'ardeur d'un homme epris d'espace, de perspective, de lumiere faisant nappe ou explosion, et s'accrochant en gouttes ou en etincelles aux asperites des uniformes et des toilettes de cour. La fete commemorative de l'independance dans la cathedrale d'Athenes fournit un curieux exemple de ce talent. Tous ces petits personnages, dont chacun est si bien a sa place, rendent plus profond l'espace qui les contient. La cathedrale est immense et decoree de tentures solennelles. Le roi Othon et la reine, debout sur une estrade, sont revetus du costume traditionnel, qu'ils portent avec une aisance merveilleuse, comme pour temoigner de la sincerite de leur adoption et du patriotisme hellenique le plus raffine. La taille du roi est sanglee comme celle du plus coquet palikare, et sa jupe s'evase avec toute l'exageration du dandysme national. En face d'eux s'avance le patriarche, vieillard aux epaules voutees, a la grande barbe blanche, dont les petits yeux sont proteges par des lunettes vertes, et portant dans tout son etre les signes d'un flegme oriental consomme. Tous les personnages qui peuplent cette composition sont des portraits, et l'un des plus curieux, par la bizarrerie de sa physionomie aussi peu hellenique que possible, est celui d'une dame allemande, placee a cote de la reine et attachee a son service. (OC II, 705)
The costumes worn by the King and Queen, the central figures in the picture, are picked out by the "gouttes" and "etincelles" of light that bead them as sources of meaning. But it is not their individuality or elegance that justifies Baudelaire's evocation of Dandyism, for the Royal Family wears traditional Greek costume. The problem of resignification is that of freeing a signifier from its conventional meaning and reinvesting it through an imaginative effort: that is exactly the situation here. Indeed, the painting represents a kind of gala affair celebrating a national tendency to liberate and reevaluate signs. Consider the national dress, whose plethora of folds is one indication of liberation and recapturing. A king wearing the national costume on Independence Day would seem, at first blush, to affirm a resurgent national spirit, an investment by Greeks in the autochthonously Greek. But a little more delving--exacted by the enigmatic phrase of "national dandyism" for instance--tells us that nothing is further from the case. To begin with, the war for independence from the Ottoman empire celebrated here was not won by the Greeks, but ended only after the decisive intervention by Europe in the conflict. Victory was consolidated by the Conference of London which established Greece as a kingdom independent of the Ottomans, and then immediately placed it under the protection of the European powers, setting on the throne Otto, the 17-year-old son of Louis I, king of Bavaria. Otto's adoption of the Greek national costume points to this liberation and capture of "Greece" by Europe. The German face of the Queen's lady-in-waiting is also a reminder, just as the oriental face of the patriarch gestures to the country's past. Resignification has taken place around the Dandy figure and a re-evaluated Greece inhabits the traditional folds of the Palankar's kilt.
The constitution that established the new Greece was of European manufacture, and in the idea of at least one historian, the nationalism and notions of self-determination that Europe considers the legacy of Greek thought, were in fact formulated in Europe. In this view, the Greeks had to go to school in Europe to learn what it was to be Greek. (20) Here too the king made a resignifying move that crowned his popularity. He took his name, Otto, out of the German context to which it was tied and, re-spelling it as the Greek Othon, made it the name of the King of the new Greece, one that had rediscovered itself under European trappings. (21)
The Independence Day celebrated provides a last example of a sign liberated from a first context and assigned another meaning. In 1843, eleven years before the picture was painted, there was a second Revolution, at the end of which Greek nationalists removed the hated Bavarian clique that surrounded the king and turned Othon into a constitutional monarch. The 1854 Independence Day thus celebrates a further re-presentation that makes Baudelaire's remark on Dandyism as a national phenomenon particularly astute. While Othon remains king at the time to which the painting refers, he is a figurehead in a country where the people have arrogated to themselves his kingly power in resignifying him.
In short, Baudelaire's vision coincides with Barbey's in that re-presentation is seen as a fundamental operation of the Dandy, be that Dandy an individual or a nation. It is the Dandy's ability to conceive of and capture the freedom of the signifier that gives him his power. The resignifying Dandy is a myth-maker who represents a failure of language to represent adequately to the spellbound audience. He dramatizes the availability of signs to mean otherwise.
Dandyism lies behind the rise of both individual and nation, for both depend on the liberation and recapturing of shopworn symbols. But innovation is not to be confused with creation or a limited economy with an open one. The resignifying attitude involves strategic power plays with the signifier's freedom; it liberates for the sake of recapturing, and turns that power to the benefit of the capturer. The constraints placed on freedom in the picture--as symbolized by the belt that cinches those exaggerated folds to the king's body--together with the calculating posture of the subject, suggest a limited economy in which self-interest dominates. Dandyism, Balzac has said, is the "l'art de depenser ses revenus en homme d'esprit," and this notion of resignification goes along with the Dandy as spectacular recycler of signs who never destroys or invents anything. (22) The Dandy's gesture of resignifying interrupts the ordinary situation of sign exchange only long enough to establish him as exceptional being who lucidly masters the signs of a situation, without operating any transformation in it. We can see why Bataille describes Dandyism as a reduced version of the desire for the impossible. The constraints placed on the signifier's freedom make it into little more than an occasion to be seized for personal glory. But according Bataille, theoretician of sacrifice, the poet's desire is for the utmost in dispossession, for according an exorbitant freedom to language. The calculated liberation and seizing of the sign can only appear as a premature and inadequate repossession. The Dandy's gesture is indeed the gesture of making the impossible possible: it is a worldly, compromised activity which plays with representations rather than with things, while leaving the hierarchical relation according precedence to things over representations untouched.
Before leaving the scene, it is worth asking what can be learned from the resignifying moves of the Dandy in terms of Baudelairian autobiography. Ought we to hear an auto under Otto-Othon, as a sign that the Dandy king is a figure for Baudelaire? In this light we note that Baudelaire's favorite figures--irony and allegory--both entail exploiting an alteration in the status of a sign in the same way as the Dandy's resignifying. With those figures, a sign bearing a conventional meaning is taken up into another context where it means in another way, through a disruption that moves away from the text as expression of a subject's view, and posits a superior, other worldly perspective. Be it through a rift opened up suddenly between what is said and the manner of saying it, or a ripping of a veil that invests an apparently anodyne natural figure with a supernatural charge, Baudelaire's favorite figures do not depend on likeness so much as on the difference within the sign affecting its status. The Dandy's resignification is comparable to that of an ironist and allegorist like Baudelaire.
However, the limited action of the Dandy is very different from how Baudelaire describes irony and allegory, whose action he sees as limitless. Absolute irony, le comique absolu, is endlessly self-lacerating; allegory's limitlessness also manifests itself in self-dispossession, in signs exiled from their context that do not prepare the recuperation of the self through interiorization, but end in a metonymic scattering of the mind and a flood of exiles, as "Le Cygne," for one instance, graphically illustrates: "Je pense a mon grand cygne .../... et puis a vous / Andromaque ...//Je pense a la negresse....//A quiconque a perdu ce qui ne se retrouve/Jamais, jamais! a ceux qui s'abreuvent de pleurs .../Aux maigres orphelins ...//Je pense aux matelots oublies dans une ile,/Aux captifs, aux vaincus!.. a bien d'autres encor!" (OC I, 86-87)
It would thus be misleading to look for a self-portrait of the artist as Ottoman in the Independence Day picture. The Dandy figure with its calculations, its voluntarism, its lucid superiority, its narcissistic self-display, makes an incomplete figure for the artist because the artist's resignifying is always a preparation for an exorbitant sacrifice carrying away the self and self-representation in its wake. In poetry, the poet meets with the incalculable in the form of accidents and it is in that landscape that he must exercise his "fantastique escrime," "trebuchant sur les mots comme sur les paves, / Heurtant parfois des vers depuis longtemps reves" (OC I, 83)
But there is another side to be considered. Bataille said it was fatal for Baudelaire to will the impossible, by which he seemed to mean that his identification was hOt only ruinous but inevitable. Through figures for the sleep, fall or death of the Dandy this unavoidable identification between poet and figure can start to come into view. There is an absurdity to the thought that the Dandy asleep, insensible, lacking pathos and action bears a telling resemblance to the poet. For that would be to say that the poet is most exceptional when, instead of depicting the world as it is or ought to be, she is instead engaged in sleeping, going mad, dying, etc.
Another passage from Le Peintre de la vie moderne, this one culled from the section called "The Military Man," addresses the problem. In this section, Baudelaire is describing the particular beauty of the military man, which is in general, he says, distinct from that of women or of the Dandy. But the military man has at least one trait that allows a resemblance to the Dandy to shine through. He is with difficulty astonished, even by death, accustomed as he is to "la necessite d'etre pret a mourir a chaque moment" (OC II, 708). The Dandy too has "la satisfaction orgueilleuse de ne jamais etre etonne (OC II, 710) and has made himself like unto a cadaver ("perinde ac cadaver," OC II, 711). There is thus this resemblance of attitude between the two that both have anticipated death. Describing Monsieur G.'s watercolors and sketches, Baudelaire notes a good-looking staff sergeant, in whom we recognize a "sleeping" Dandy figure:
Aucun type militaire n'y manque, et tous sont saisis avec une espece de joie enthousiaste: le vieil officier d'infanterie, serieux et triste, affligeant son cheval de son obesite; le joli officier d'etat-major, pince dans sa taille, se dandinant les epaules, se penchant sans timidite sur le fauteuil des dames, et qui, vu de dos fait penser aux insectes les plus sveltes et les plus elegants.... (OC II, 708; my emphasis).
The vignette of the staff sergeant is striking because without actually nanaing him as such, Baudelaire presents us with an elegant military man who strikes one as an unaware Dandy, clinching the suggestion by way of a homonym (se dandinant les epaules) that says Dandy without exactly naming him one, using a style that in its allegorical allusiveness can itself be called dandified. (23) A translator with a good ear for the connotations of the scene, Jonathan Mayne, has set aside the readily available terms of dandling or rocking back and forth, implying awkwardness, and has chosen the term "wriggling" more in keeping with the body language of an elegant Dandy figure. (24) This back and forth movement, together with the pinched waist and the turned back of the officer, justifies the comparison to an insect pinned alive and wriggling to the painter's collection board. We know it is pinned because Baudelaire tells us it has been "saisi"; a rigor mortis has already started to claim the staff sergeant. Monsieur G's painting lifts him out of the realm of the living and into that of art, where he is eminently available to others, taken as he is from the back, and exhibited not as the autonomous being he is to himself but as elected to mean for others. The staff sergeant does not present a human figure, the face of a self-conscious subject; instead he is held, back exposed, collected like an insect by a superior being, (25) his destiny having caught him unawares. In short, the exquisite officer is a specimen subject captured and resignified by a superior allegorist just as King Othon had captured and resignified the Greek kilt.
The Dandy-like figure of the soldier as we see it here is already in the process of succumbing to the machinery of death-dealing it sets into motion. Again, the particular beauty associated with the type is allegorical or ironical. The scene plays on a non-coincidence between the world of the salon inhabited by the officer, where wriggling is a sign in a courting dance, and the world of the collector, where the same gesture points allegorically to death. It could be objected that the staff officer lacks the sovereignty associated with the Dandy figure. But the objection forgets that the meteoric rise of the upstart is inevitably followed by a precipitous descent, that the Dandy figure too is always a divided one. On the one side, he appears a voluntaristic being who has imposed himself as sovereign subject, as I, in the minds of others. In his sovereignty he rivals monarchs. It is not just with Othon that the Dandy is a prince; Barbey d'Aurevilly notes a similar rivalry between George IV and the famous Dandy George Brummell, (26) and Baudelaire's princes are all Dandies. But on the other side, the Dandy is characterized by a spectacular fall: witness the exile and madness of Brummell, the execution of Julien Sorel, the ousting of Othon. The staff officer, however alert and ready for death he may be, does not escape it, anymore than the Dandy who anticipates his fall by making himself like a cadaver. The Dandy anticipates his allegorization or ironization by electing those figures as his privileged means of resignifying. Nonetheless, he inevitably finds himself caught in the mechanism he thought to master. The Dandy asleep in the mirror represents this failure of the notion that resignification, re-presentation is an expression of the subject's mastery. The paradox of the Dandy is that of an active, forceful being who is disciplined and heroic, and is also a being seized from the back, in the attitude of death.
His heroism can be distinguished from that of the military man, however, in that the latter dies the animal death of an insect on a pin, whereas the Dandy's death is that of consciousness. His superiority, Baudelaire tells us, is of the mind (OC II, 710). When he falls, it is in the mind: one thinks of Brummell gone mad in Calais, of Julien Sorel who literally "lost his head," or of the extraordinary attachment to form over substance that goes along with this decadent figure. Dandyism in general is an institution associated with the "soleil couchant" (OC II, 712) of Romanticism by Baudelaire, in contrast to the resplendent sun of Enlightenment reason.
We said earlier that the Dandy is an incomplete figure for the artist in that his relation to the sign is characterized by a limited dispossession and a self-interested recuperation. Now, with the appearance of the Dandy as a Sadian figure taken into the grip of the process that he sets into motion, the missing piece of disinterest and a dispossession unlimited by the subject seems to have shown up, along with a closer resemblance to the artist. A dispossession that does not return to the subject characterizes the Dandy. (27) The Dandy asleep in the mirror is a limit representation: it stands for the impossibility of harnessing the freedom of the signifier, and thus opens toward a language not constrained to representation, but it does so by another representation. The Dandy asleep shows the artist constrained to self-representation, his text inevitably appearing the effect of a consciousness representing itself in all its attitudes. The Dandy before the mirror is the perfect expression of "l'individualisme bien entendu" in all its aspects, then. Can we then conclude that Baudelaire does identify with the figure?
Differentiating between Dandy and artist is the point of the prose poem "Une Mort heroique," where an artist confronts a Dandy prince and claims his own separate death as artist. There, the mime Fancioulle, under sentence of death for having conspired to replace the Prince, gives a command performance which starts by veiling death:
Fancioulle me prouvait ..... que le genie peut jouer la comedie au bord de la tombe avec une joie qui l'empeche de voir la tombe, perdu, comme il est, dans un paradis excluant toute idee de tombe et de destruction.... Personne ne reva plus de mort, de deuil, ni de supplices. (OC I, 321-22).
To blind everyone to the approach of death Fancioulle sets aside his natural, mortal being to incarnate an ideal self that knows no time: "Fancioulle fut ... une parfaite idealisation, qu'il etait impossible de ne pas supposer vivante, possible, reelle" (OC I, 321). The ideal is one the audience attributes to the Prince, "l'idee de douceur et de pardon" (OC I, 321), and his incarnation of it makes them believe that Fancioulle's life is to be spared. But Fancioulle's giving of life to a timeless work of art actually prepares the eventual entrance of death onto the stage in a dramatic coup de theatre. The play is interrupted by the sound of a sharp whistle, "rapide comme une glaive," that kills the comedian and ends the comedy. The whistle does not return things to reality as Fancioulle's death might suggest. Instead, the play opens up to include the agony of the ideal self; and Fancioulle, "reveille dans son reve," wakes up within his dream to mime death otherwise than from an idea: "(il) ouvrit ensuite la bouche comme pour respirer convulsivement, chancela un peu en avant, un peu en arriere, et puis tomba roide mort sur les planches" (OC I, 322; my emphasis). The artist who has made everyone forget the death awaiting him offstage, receives death when it arrives onstage, in a crowning as if. The mime does not mean his own death, and yet the stage has been cleared for its arrival since the beginning, his veiling of death serving as a preparation for its entrance at the end. When death at last enters, it does not carry off the mime so much as the aesthetics of the incarnated ideal which is what had kept death in abeyance. Indeed, nothing in the text allows us to assert with certainty that Fancioulle dies with his stage character instead of being later "efface(...) de la vie" (OC I, 323) along with his fellow conspirators. The narrator, for one, is not sure that the whistle forestalls the executioner: "le sifflet ... avait-il reellement frustre le bourreau?" (O C I, 323).
Nor is the death of the ideal simply suffered by the mime. (28) He resignifies the whistle, taking it not as a conventional sign meaning the disapproval of an audience for an imperfect actor outside his part but rather as the cue for a heightened illusion, the entrance on stage of a superior art. The whistle inspires him to enact the figure of speech "mourir de honte" before the audience, and if his miming ends by "killing" him, it is because his relation to art has entirely changed. Instead of expressing an ideal of beauty, incarnating an imaginative vision as he has done in the first part of the spectacle, the mime now inspires himself from signs. The mime is a split figure here: victim seized by death, struck from behind by language, he wakes from his romantic dreams to shine as an artist having--impossibly--set the stage for the accident that has occurred to him and his poetics. Following Andrzej Warminski, we would have to term the artist's death a linguistic death, in contradistinction both to the animal death of the staff sergeant and the death of consciousness associated with the Dandy figure (29) In the figure of the artist undone, we have a figure that resembles the Dandy, in resignifying and in dying as expressive subject, but who has chosen another sort of death in acting out a figure. Thinking back for a moment to Baudelaire's statement that the Dandy "doit vivre et dormir devant un miroir," we can say the Dandy is the representing subject for itself and for others, in its apotheosis and its fall. (30) The artist, however, represents without a prior represented; his miming springs straight from a linguistic source.
Far from identifying the artist with the Dandy figure for whom representation is everything, Baudelaire increases the distance between them in the figures of the Dandy and Fancioulle. The artist cannot identify with the Dandy as mastering consciousness because that is to identify with what is more and less than an artist. Nor can he identify with him as sleeping figure, since the sleeping Dandy stands for a consciousness gone missing, whereas the artist, even in dying, "knows" his double nature. That is what Baudelaire says of the artist in his text on laughter: "(Les artistes) savent que tel etre est comique, et qu'il ne l'est qu'a la condition d'ignorer sa nature; de meme que, par une loi inverse, l'artiste n'est artiste qu'a la condition d'etre double et de n'ignorer aucun phenomene de sa double nature" (OC II, 543). The Dandy figure thus appears as one of the numerous doubles with which Baudelaire's text is packed, that at once invite us to look for resemblances to the artist, but refuse identification. As figure representing the failure of representation, the Dandy empties the stage for a modern, i.e., non-representational, art.
And yet, is the Dandy just one of the many doubles with which Baudelaire peoples his text? In sleeping and living in front of the mirror, the Dandy is more than a liminal figure who brings the representation into crisis. For, situated as he is devant le miroir, he can hardly help but block its play, interposing himself materially as a sack of clothes in the way of reflection. We can think of this screening shape as a placeholder for a future, non-representational poetry. He is a stop-gap for a manner that steps out as motive when representation falls. A shape blocking access to reflection, the Dandy is a placeholder for manner or language become motive. Like the eponymous hero in The Picture of Dorian Gray, he stands for a new motive for art. As such, he lets the mime know ahead of time about the future death awaiting his representational art. It is through the Dandy that the artist foreknows his double nature. In short, the artist identifies with the Dandy not as consciousness asleep or awake but as a cadaver in clothes. (31)
It is literally true that the story "Une mort heroique" spins itself out from an identification by the mime with the Prince. This identification is mistaken in almost every respect, and the mime is punished heavily for it: first by the sentence of death pronounced against him for daring to conspire to substitute another leader for the Prince, and then by the derisive whistle that greets his perfect representation of the princely thought of pardon. But in one particular, in his having made manner a motive, in his having grasped a radical freedom to the signifier that spells the end of the representation of what is and the beginning of a representing without a represented, the artist indeed identifies meaningfully with the Dandy Prince as placeholder for an alterity that cannot be construed as a potential consciousness. It is neither the superiority of the Dandy nor his being for the other that attracts Baudelaire; he identifies with him rather as other to the representational artist, as other of the human motive in art, in short, as blot on the mirror.
Now we can see why Bataille finds the artist's foreknowledge of his death as idealist artist, his identification with the Dandy blocking the mirror, ruinous with respect to the dispossession aimed at by poetry. For such foreknowledge reanimates what had to be without speech or consciousness for the identification to occur. It reactivates the representational poetry that is over and done with. In the identification with the Dandy, the art of representation that is finished survives itself. (32) In what speech could the subject claire its resemblance to an evacuated, dehumanized subject? The Dandy is the I for the other, the other of a discursive I. (33) To identify with the evacuated Dandy is to make it rise again, to possess it of the attributes of the discursive subject whose dispossession has allowed Baudelaire to foreknow his artist's fate in the Dandy. (34)
But Bataille is right to say that identification is ineluctable. The poet cannot help but identify with the Dandy, and that for a simple reason. By that identification, the poet chooses his own death. The poet is inevitably, fatally, attracted to the Dandy as a material of the sort needed to feed his poetry, which is to say, a material that will let him come upon his own undoing. The Dandy as manner in the way of the mirror opens an horizon outside of those covered by "l'individualisme bien entendu" and as such it opens a horizon for poetry the poet has to pick up on. It is all a matter of economics. A figure which is all at once a superior representer, a representation for others, and a block to representation gives the poet rich material around which to restage the drama of his own double aspect: as creative consciousness battling with forms, as figure tracing out moves dictated by language. The fact that his identification is with the other of consciousness is enough to tell us, however, that the drama of representation is a survivorship of, or preparation for, a death that is what the poet in the end chooses as specifically his own.
Baudelaire's texts appear to eschew the autobiographical, written as they are around the I's death, around the failure of representation and particularly self-representation, and foregrounding as they do the claims of the text to be written from language, rather than from experience. But in the repeated emergence of a shape blocking the mirror, as of an autothanatographical writing, where a language of representation is repeatedly being substituted for by a language that represents only language, we find a Baudelairian signature.
(1.) Correspondance, ed. Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler, v. I (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 610. All future references to the work will be cited in the text. The phrase continues, "et je mentirai comme un arracheur de dents," thus taking back the first taking back. But there is a potential irony here too: the I compares himself to a dentist rather than to a patient, to a confessor rather than to a confessing subject. Moreover, his "lies" speak mainly about their status as confessions: taken under torture, a confession is neither true nor false, but simply pain speaking.
(2.) See the letter to his mother: "Vous n'avez donc pas remarque qu'il y avait dans Les Fleurs du mal deux pieces vous concernant, ou du moins allusionnetles a des detAlls intimes de notre ancienne vie, de cette epoque de veuvage qui m'a laisse de singuliers et tristes souvenirs,--l'une: Je n'ai pas oublie, voisine de la ville...., (Neuilly), et l'autre qui suit: La servante au grand cceur dont vous etiez jalouse ... (Mariette)? J'ai laisse ces pieces sans titres et sans indications claires parce que j'ai horreur de prostituer les choses intimes de famille.' (C I, 445)
(3.) Charles Baudelaire. CEuvres completes, ed. Claude Pichois, v. I, (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1975), 85. All future references to the 2-volume work will be cited in the text.
(4.) Speaking of one letter to Baudelaire's mother, the authors complain: "Le lecteur d'une telle lettre est pris d'embarras. Les arguments rationnels et irrationnels en sont si inextricablement lies, la sincerite y devient si facilement un masque, qu'on balance entre l'etonnement douloureux et l'admiration due a un scenario genialement improvise." Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler, Charles Baudelaire, (Paris: Fayard, 1996), 250.
(5.) "La Morale du joujou" might be thought the exception. Yet this glittering, highly colored narrative presents itself rather as an allegory in the form of a fairytale than a lived experience and was destined by Baudelaire to appear in Reflexions sur quelques uns de mes contemporams as a critical essay.
(6.) See the letter to his mother, April 1, 1861, where he speaks of "un grand livre auquel je reve depuis deux ans: Mon cceur mis a nu, et ou j'entasserai toutes mes coleres. Ah! Si jamais celui-la voit le jour, les Confessions de J[ean]-J[acques] paraitront pales." (C II, 141) In another letter to the same correspondent dated June 5, 1863, he is more precise on the form it will take: "Eh bien! Oui, ce livre tant reve sera un livre de rancunes. A coup sur ma mere et meme mon beau pere y seront respectes. Mais tout en racontant mon education, la maniere dont se sont faconnes mes idees et mes sentiments, je veux faire sentir sans cesse que je me sens comme etranger au monde et a ses cultes. Je tournerai contre la France entiere mon reel talent d'impertinence. J'ai un besoin de vengeance comme un homme fatigue a besoin d'un bain. (C II, 305). The chosen mood of anger betrays a thirst for distinction. Instead of love--which tends to insist upon the self's appropriation of the other as the loved object--Baudelaire rings the changes on the irreconcilable differences that divide him from a Georges Sand or a Villemain. If there is a self-portrait here, it is a self-portrait achieved by saying not what I am, in myself and in my relation to others, but, through what I think of others, what I am not.
(7.) In defining autobiography as a "recit retrospectif en prose" made of "l'histoire de (la) personnalite," Philippe Lejeune places narrative at the center of the genre (Le Pacte autobiographique [Paris: Seuil, 1975]), 14.
(8.) There is, however, a dated fragment in Hygiene, "... aujourd'hui 23 janvier 1862, j'ai subi un singulier avertissement, j'ai senti passer sur moi le vent de l'Alle de l'imbecillite" (OC I, 668), which fragment tends to get read as referring to symptoms of the syphillis that rendered Baudelaire speechless in 1866 and killed him in 1867. But the experience referred to is muddy, particularly given the presence of the poetic topoi of wind and wing, as if Baudelaire were dating his discovery of a strong new inspiration in idiocy. "Un Plaisant," which features "un magnifique imbecile," (OC I, 279) was written in 1862.
(9.) On saurait enfin (apres des recherches sur les antecedents, s'entend) si la Fusee XII a une valeur autobiographique ou si elle doit etre ajoutee a la liste des titres et canevas de romans et nouvelles" (Baudelaire, 18).
(10.) Michel Leiris, "'Introduction" in Jean-Paul Sartre, Baudelaire (Paris: Gallimard, 1947). All future references will be cited in the text.
(11.) Thus, for instance, Bernard Howells tells us: "Self-portrayal is determined from the outset in terms of distinction from, and opposition to, others. It is the pretext for the expression of resentments, for a series of free-ranging acerbic observations and judgments of topical interest in the personal, literary, social and moral spheres. The term Journal is appropriate enough for this reason at least, that it serves to distinguish Baudelaire's intentions from autobiography in the narrow sense and from those techniques of retrospection and anticipation which create the illusion of mastering the subject." In Baudelaire: Individualism, Dandyism and the Philosophy of History. (Oxford: European Humanities Research Centre, 1996), 70. See also Didier Blonde's Baudelaire en passant (Paris: Gallimard, 2003) and Andre Hirt's II faut etre absolument lyrique: une constellation de Baudelaire (Paris: Ed. Kime, 2000).
(12.) Georges Bataille, "Baudelaire," in La Litterature et le mal (Paris: Gallimard, 1957), 37-68. All future references will be cited in the text.
(13.) There exist a large number of critical works on the Dandy. Besides Howells, Hirt, Sartre and Bataille, the following works have been particularly helpful in the formulation of the problem in this essay: Roland Barthes ("Le Dandysme et la mode," in Emilien Carassus, Le Mythe du dandy [Paris: Armand Colin, 1971], 312-315), Francoise Coblence (Le Dandysme, obligation d'incertitude [Paris: PUF, 1988]), Benjamin Fondane (Baudelaire et l'experience du gouffre [Paris: Editions Complexe, 1994]), Michel Foucault ("Usage des plaisirs et techniques de soi" in Dits et Ecrits: 1954-1988, t. IV [Paris: Gallimard, 1994] 539-561), and Michel Lemaire (Le Dandysme de Baudelaire a Mallarme, [Paris: Klincksieck, 1978]).
(14.) Howells, op. cit., p. 33.
(15.) This point is borne out a little later in the Salon by a passage in which Baudelaire suggests that the adoption of the principle of individualism has led to the decline of art, in particular of Romantic art, and notes the early signs of a new tradition (OC II, 493).
(16.) To Sartre, the ideal poet is better represented by Rimbaud (146-47), or even by Georges Sand, Victor Hugo, or Pierre Leroux (124), all of whom present some kind of danger to received values and are engaged artists with new ideas to propagate.
(17.) In this statement about death, Sartre suggests that there is a parallel between the subject's attempt to understand itself as object and its attempt to see itself as dead ahead of time. It can be wondered whether those two attempts would be parallel from a Hegelian perspective, since the problem posed for the dialectic by a consciousness that confronts its own death (in lieu of that of a slave consciousness) opens outward toward the question of a negation that is not determinate, which the subject considering itself as object does not do. Sartre's dialectic gets a certain slipperiness from this parallel.
(18.) Barbey d'Aurevilly, Du Dandysme et de Georges Brummell, (Paris: Plein Chant, 1989), 99.
(19.) For Michel Foucault, the Dandy's job is the re-evaluation of given values: "Etre moderne, ce n'est pas s'accepter soi-meme tel qu'on est dans le flux des moments qui passent; c'est se prendre soi-meme comme objet d'une elaboration complexe et dure: ce que Baudelaire appelle, selon le vocabulaire de l'epoque, le 'dandysme.'" op. cit., 570.
(20.) In A Concise History of Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 27. Richard Clogg says:
Perhaps most important of all, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the subventions of merchants enabled young Greeks to study in the universities of western Europe and, in particular, those of the German states. Here they came into contact hOt only with the heady ideas of the Enlightenment, of the French Revolution and of romantic nationalism, but they were made aware of the extraordinary hold which the language and civilization of ancient Greece had over the minds of their educated European contemporaries.
(21.) Othon's move was doubly astute: for if, on the one side, "Otto" signaled European rule in Greece, on the other side, through an accidental effect of the signifier, it was also a reminder of the earlier oppressor--the Ottoman empire.
(22.) Honore de Balzac, Traite de la vie elegante, (Clermont-Ferrand: Presses Universitaires Biaise Pascal, 2000), 83.
(23.) Francoise Coblence reminds us that one etymology of dandy traces it back to dandin, "sot, niais, se balancant d'une jambe sur l'autre," op. cit., 14.
(24.) The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (London: Phaidon Press, 1964), 25.
(25.) What makes this situation different from Sartre's definition of Baudelaire as attempting to seize himself as object is that the allegorizing lets us know that it is a problem not of vision but of reading, and thus not one of objects and subjects, but of readers and texts.
(26.) The famous Dandy is supposed to have remarked "Je l'ai fait ce qu'il est, je peux bien le defaire," Barbey d'Aurevilly, op. cit., 63. By this remark George Brummell presumably meant that he had set the model of elegance and bon ton to which the other George aspired. But if we are right to see the Dandy's signifying gestures as important for the emerging nationalism or the nineteenth century, it may be true in another sense.
(27.) "La Soupe et les nuages" contains a figure of the artist taken from the back. The poet is sitting dreaming of his ideal in the clouds when he is awakened by a "muse" who strikes him from behind and, calling him away from his cloud architectures, reminds him of his soup and of his homosexual posture (sacre bougre). See on the problem of incorporation and gender in the poem Joshua Wilner in Feeding on Infinity: Readings in the Romantic Rhetoric of Incorporation (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
(28.) Antoine Compagnon finds Fancioulle to enjoy "une mort au sommet de son art" Baudelaire devant l'innombrable (Paris: Presses de l'Universite de Paris-Sorbonne, 2003), 195. We disagree slightly on this interpretative point. Rather than a death at the summit, Fancioulle enjoys death as the summit of his art.
(29.) In "Dreadful Reading: Blancnot on Hegel" in Readings in Interpretation: Holderlin, Hegel, Heidegger (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 183-191.
(30.) What makes Fancioulle's acting out of death different from Sartre's idea of Baudelaire attempting to seize himself as object is that it is not a problem of vision but of reading, and thus not one of objects and subjects, but of readers and texts.
(31.) The book on literary Dandyism that Baudelaire wanted to write would no doubt have brought forward the relation, particularly in Chateaubriand, the author of an autobiography written from the perspective of death, Memoires d'outre-tombe.
(32.) According to Arme Martin-Fugier in La Vie elegante ou la formation du Tout-Paris 1815-1848, Dandyism is over by 1840. In her mind, that makes Barbey's treatise on Brummell possibly "une tentative de retour aux sources destinee a regenerer une valeur compromise"(384-85). From the perspective considered here, however, the point is to note that the figure heading up the cuit of regenerating value has become a victim of its own cult. Dandies are "a la fois pretres et victimes" says Baudelaire, (OC II, 711).
(33.) This is borne out by the fact that, with the exception of one letter, itself ambiguous, it is not Baudelaire who calls himself Dandy, but always his biographers who do so. In a letter to Sainte-Beuve Baudelaire says that he has chosen to publish a poem with an out-of-favor editor "par un dandysme d'heroisme" (C I, 554). The Dandy is a biographer's figure in this case.
(34.) The prose poems in particular would be a fruitful place to examine this hypothesis. I think in particular of "Le Mauvais vitrier" where the I confronts "la premiere personne
University of California, Irvine
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|Title Annotation:||Charles Baudelaire|
|Publication:||The Romanic Review|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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