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Baudelaire: sculptor of words.

That Baudelaire was conscious of the close relationship between and writing is something no one disputes. The son of a artiste manque, and one of the most important French art critics of the mid-19th century, he has often been portrayed as someone who wanted to do with words what painters do with color, line, and form: ut pictura, poesis.(1) In dedicating Les Fleurs du Mai to Theophile Gautier, however, Baudelaire implied that he also knew how to "sculpt, file, and chisel" words on the page, not just "paint" them, as it were. Gautier had, of course, already set forth this new type of poetics in the manifesto-like poem "L'Art" closing his 1852 Emaux et Camees, in which he urged poets to write as if they were sculptors. Only through such sculpting could the "reve flottant" of the artist be sealed, according to Gautier, in "le bloc resistant" of marble, bronze, and, by (literary) extension, wordson-the-page. Poetic images fabricated in this manner were presumably meant to strike readers like statues and monuments that dazzle their observers.

Yet, the earlier essays in Baudelaire's Salons of 1845 and 1846 do not paint a pretty picture of sculpture. Indeed, in one of the better known of these essays, he attempts to explain "pourquoi la sculpture est ennuyeuse" (section 16 1846). In it Baudelaire assails sculpture because of what he calls "la consequence neessaire de ses moyens." Using a comparison reminiscent of many of his later invectives against Nature as well as his many eloges of artificiality, he describes sculpture as being "brutale et positive comme la nature [...] et en meme temps vague et insaisissable ...." The main problem, it seems, is that "elle montre trop de faces h la fois... [le spectateur] pent choisir cent points de vue differents, excepte le bon..." Painting, on the other hand, "n'a qu'un point de vue; elle est exclusive et despotique: aussi l'expression du peintre est-elle bien plus forte." At this early stage of his career, Baudelaire thus did not think much of sculpture compared to painting, neither as a visual art form in itself, nor as a potential model for his poetry.

This is probably because, as his complete commitment to Poe's Poetic Principle attests, Baudelaire qua poet was what we might now vulgarly label a control-freak. As the above passage implies, Baudelaire feared that when artists do not control what their spectators or readers see or read, the latter will always choose the wrong point of view. When, on the other hand, artists assume despotic control over the observer's perspective or perception, the power of their artistic expression is much greater. One could say, as a result, that whenever one had the option of seeing a text from many points of view, and was free to see whatever one wishes, this created a monstrous aesthetic situation with respect to Baudelaire's early aesthetic theories. One can only imagine how disgusted Baudelaire would have been by the whole critical controversy surrounding his sonnet "Les Chats," which a few years ago pitted countless readers and readings, theories and methodologies against one another.

In any case, the monstrosity of this situation immediately forces us to reexamine his poem "Le Masque," dedicated precisely to a contemporary sculptor, Ernest Christophe, and subtitled "Statue allegorique dans le gout de la Renaissance." While walking around a sublime statue of a woman (and consequently, observing it from several different perspectives), the narrator discovers a shocking sight behind what turns out to have been a misleading mask. Just like the narrator who reels at the sight of a still-warm hangman, whose horridness dramatically undermines the otherwise presumed beauty of Venus' island in "Un Voyage a Cythere," here, too, he is shaken into accepting a specifically grotesque point of view from among a wide range of sublime possibilities, exclaiming:

O blaspheme de l'art! o surprise fatale

La femme au corps divin, promettant le bonheur,

Par le haut se termine en monstre bicephale!

In his later Salon de 1859 Baudelaire explained that the real secret of this sculptural allegory ("la morale de cette fable") did not lie in the juxtaposition of the mask's beauty and its hideous underside. Instead, it lay in the realization that this unexpected discovery forced him to recognize "le masque universel, votre masque, mon masque." The reciprocity here mentioned recalls the unusually aggressive reader-text relationship established at the very start of Les Fleurs by the celebrated (and, at the time, shocking apostrophe) to his "Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere." The etymology of "hypocrite" (literally, a "wearer of masks") provides the necessary link to both texts.(2)

All of which suggests that as long as the reader and the poem are forced to assume fixed identities--which is another way of saying, as long as they both, figuratively, wear specific masks--a certain modern idealization of beauty is possible, as Baudelaire defines it. Poems can be said to wear masks when they metaphorically put their "best" foot forward, so to speak; that is, when they take on one and only one rigorously chiseled thematic and formal configuration. Readers, on the other hand, assume their own kind of fixed identity, and act in a similarly hypocritical manner, when they are sucked into confronting just such artistic/moralistic feints. Knowing that they, too, wear masks, however, allows them to see beyond mere appearances. In a literary context, it obliges them nevertheless to accept the possibility that oftentimes depressing truths lie behind the more or less elegant and conventional structural appearance and thematics initially encountered in the reading of a text. This very conventionality (represented by Baudelaire's well-documented recycling of sonnets and classical topoi, for instance) is one which he claims the skilled sculptor, and by extension, the great poet, uses at first "pour voiler aux yeux du monde la douleur ou le remords."

The Salon de 1859 puts sculpture in a new light, therefore. Whereas in 1846 this art form represented nothing for Baudelaire but "un art complementaire ... isole," it now appears capable of achieving greatness at least in some instances. "True" sculpture, he writes,

solennise tout, meme le mouvement [...] elle donne a tout ce qui

est humain quelque chose d'eternel et qui participe de la durete de

la matiere employee. La colere devient calme, la tendresse severe,

le reve ondoyant et brillante de la peinture se transforme en mediation

solide et obstinee.

"True" sculpture, along with its "true" poetic equivalent, immobilize the full range of transitory, human perceptions and emotions and give them an aesthetic solidity that lets them last. As long then as they force their audience to experience the complete human condition, both spleen and ideal together, they generate Baudelaire's praise.

Between 1846 and 1859, a number of older sculptures--those of Egyptian artists, Michelangelo, Puget, and Coustou, for example--thus rose in Baudelaire's estimation, even though he felt, cynically perhaps, that they still demanded far too much effort for most people to appreciate. Yet, apart from the few notable exceptions he discusses in the 1859 Salon (e.g. Christophe and Preault), modern sculpture rarely engenders the type of longed-for "fantome de pierre," which these earlier pieces produced, and which he indicates

s'empare de vous pendant quelques minutes, et vous commande,

au nom du passe, de penser aux choses qui ne sont pas de la terre.

Tel est le but divin de la sculpture.

When one understands how much work goes into producing such an "austere enchantement," Baudelaire continues, one should not be astonished by feeling fatigue and discouragement in the face of much modern sculpture: "ou le divin est presque toujours meconnu, et le joli, le minutieux, complaisamment substitues au grand." During the time he was composing Les Fleurs du Mal, we may therefore assume that Baudelaire attempted to infuse his poems with a divine feeling of eternity, of other-worldliness within the real. His poetry would be sculptural, then, to the extent that it would make one confront the co-presence of the sacred and the profane.

Now, to be sure, Baudelaire continued to imagine himself primarily as a "painterly" poet, especially insofar as he endeavored to control the reader's perspective (and, ultimate interpretation) of his works, like the many painters he admired. This no doubt explains the gross imbalance in the ratio of painters to sculptors (7 to 1) in his poem "Les Phares," which is all about visual artists whom modern poets should emulate. In Marcel Raymond's word, Baudelaire remained first and foremost

un visuel, amoureux des images, et un imaginatif, [qui] eprouve

une repulsion instinctive a l'egard de ce qui "se touche avec les

doigts" [a statue, for instance, cf. Salon de 1846], comme a l'egard

de toute espee de "trivialite positive"; d'ou son aversion pour les

divers aspects du realisme en art.(3)

Nonetheless, something of the sculptor's art, as he gradually came to idealize it, appears to have made its way into his own textual practice, something whose traces the rest of this essay will now begin to isolate.

Let me first insist that Baudelaire never wanted to transpose into poetry the kinds of classical myths and other subjects found in ancient sculptures. As a poet very much of his own time, he was instead interested in capturing the spirit of certain modern sculptures because, as one critic has put it, "they express more effectively than classical models the melancholy and aggressive beauty of modern man in his experience of the tensions and boredom of civilized existence."(4) Thematically, it is easy to see how Baudelaire's poetry expresses this "melancholy and aggressive beauty of modern man." Indeed, countless critical studies of Les Fleurs du mal have examined these very traits, underscoring Baudelaire's preoccupation, even obsession with, spleen, ennui, degeneration, vice, violence, sadism, and the like.

But, what all too often gets lost in such investigations is the very plasticity of the poet's treatment of these themes, a plasticity we already know was central to his aesthetics. Derived from the Greek verb "to mold or to form," the word "plastique," used frequently (and correctly) in relation to Les Fleurs, should also make us ponder the actual graphic forms so meticulously chosen, or molded, if one prefers, to articulate these themes. Baudelaire's extreme attention to typographical disposition, as well as to each period, comma, and capital letter, makes it impossible to overstate the purely formal side of his poems.

This is why one might reasonably advance the idea that on some level Baudelaire believed the words of poetry capable of expressing a concrete signification beyond their conventional meanings. This does not mean that we should expect to uncover visual or geometric reasons behind all of Baudelaire's texts, or to act as though his main goal were to write pattern poems.(5) Yet, embedded in an 1860 "projet de preface" to Les Fleurs is a statement which confirms my attribution of at least a limited scriptural/sculptural project to him in this direction. Baudelaire insists

que la phrase poeique peut imiter [...] la ligne horizontale, la

ligne droite descendante; qu'elle peut monter a pic vers le ciel, sans

essouflement, ou descendre perpendiculairement vers l'enfer avec

la velocite de toute pesanteur; qu'elle peut suivre la spirale, decrire

la parabole, ou le zigzag figurant une serie d'angles superposes.(6)

At the very beginning of the last part of this "projet," Baudelaire then repeats, metonymically, the same notion of molding or melding words in ways that imitate thematically-significant shapes. The key sentence in parentheses reads simply: "(a fondre peut-etre avec d'anciennes notes)" (Pichois 184, my emphasis). The literal and figurative meaning of "fondre" could not be more appropriate here to the poet's underlying (and, given the date: 1860) on-going utilization of sculptural metaphors that associate for him, as well as for other Parnassian poets, words with ideas. This allusion to the act of melding thereby suggests that sculpture as a stylistic model continues to play a complementary, overdetermining, albeit not primary, role in his critical view of poetic composition.

Yet, the complementarity of sculpture is no longer regarded as a fundamental flaw or weakness of that visual art form, as it was for Baudelaire in 1846. Instead, sculpture as a model now simply adds a potential dimension to his style, one that complements its acknowledged "painterly" side. How exactly, then, does he sculpt, file, and chisel his texts to force the reader to appreciate still further what his poetry otherwise tries to paint? I shall begin with the sonnet "La Beaute," which stages a short soliloque pronounced by Beauty herself. Speaking proudly in the first-person ("Je"), Beauty describes her actions (or lack thereof) and, then, her apparent lack of affect around and towards all mortals. She next singles out poets and belittles these "dociles amants" for the foolish manner in which they invariably consume "leurs jours en d'austeres etudes." Baudelaire exposes at least three major thematic concerns here: the cold, physical and emotional immobility of Beauty; the mirroring-effect she has on other objects; and lastly, the frozen, solipsistic nature of Beauty herself, who ends her monologue by vainly turning her attention once again to her self: "Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartes eternelles." It is as if she were totally incapable of escaping from, or extending herself towards, the desperately admiring poet.

Here is where one can see Baudelaire acting as a sculptor of words. In an earlier essay I tried to demonstrate the sculptural role punctuation plays in this poem, arguing that the solitary colon in this poem (at the end of verse 13) functions exactly like the only two analogous punctuation points in Leconte de Lisle's much longer poem "Le Jaguar."(7) In both texts, the colon (in French called "two points") serves as a subtle reminder of eyes, or--in De Lisle's case, two pairs of eyes, those of hunted and hunter--on which both narratives suddenly focus, although for different reasons. The colons thus appear carved out, so to speak, of the graphemic fabric of the poem. Beyond this stylistic feature, however, one also notes in "La Beaute" a curious arrangement of letters at the beginning of the first eight verses, where Beauty speaks mainly of and for herself. This new feature recalls one dear to many contemporary concrete poets, as well as to the Grands Rhetoriqueurs of the 16th century.(8) The sequence in question, arranged vertically just as one might imagine a beautiful statue to stand, forms a kind of acrostic that reads:









Thanks to this arrangement, with its folded-back, mirror-like re-presentation of the pronoun "Je," the quatrains express the poem's major themes yet again, in what is best called a complementary, sculptural manner. For, just as a mirror reverses the image it projects, so, too, do the eyes of Beauty, seem to fold back onto themselves these eight letters. Beauty thereby rejects every admirer from the outside world, and preserves only her specular narcissistic self as a series of four fantome-like first-person pronouns. As the second quatrain of many sonnets traditionally either repeats or somehow inverts the ideas and lexical positionings of the first, this textual position clearly constitutes a strategic "slot" in which one might expect a poet to engage in such letter-molding.

Interestingly enough, a similar positional reversal occurs in the previously mentioned poem, "Les Phares." In the only quatrain there specifically about a sculptor (#5), the name of that particular "beacon," Puget, appears at the beginning of the fourth line, whereas all the other names (of painters), are placed at the start of those quatrains' first lines. In Leon Cellier's reading of the poem, this anomaly is interpreted as demarcating a large axis separating the "Ideal" and "Spleen" halves of the poem, an interpretation that Claude Pichois finds "forced."(9) Given the scope of the present essay, this is not the place to argue with either critic, nor to propose a whole new reading of this piece. Whatever the final "answer" to this stylistic enigma turns out to be, though, it is reasonable to assert that in both poems the rapprochement of modern "painterly" examples of artistic Beauty, on one hand, and sculpture, on the other, has provoked an analogous stylistic reaction on the poet's part. That is, while at least one sculptor has earned a place among the other great visual artists, Baudelaire still treats him differently, reserving for him a peculiar textual status.

Let me now turn to "Le Flambeau vivant," which also lexically sculpts eyes in a different fashion from the way "La Beaute" does. Petrarchan and neoplatonic in content, the poem concerns a beloved's eyes that are said to lead the lover past dangerous traps and sins, guiding his steps "dans la route du Beau." According to editor Claude Pichois, the original manuscript contains a much larger number of capital letters than appear in the final printed text. This suggests that at different points in his composition Baudelaire was concerned with the choice of upper- or lower-case letters for many of the key words. However, the only non-abstract word that was capitalized earlier in the writing process, flambeau, was ultimately changed to lower-case in the final version, leaving the word "Yeux" as the only capitalized, concrete noun that is repeated within the poem's verses, i.e. that does not begin any verses. Another concrete noun, "Ange," is also capitalized, but it appears just once.

Why should these eyes be capitalized and repeated in the course of the poem? The first answer, of course, is that the poem thereby emphasizes the quasi-magical life of the torch-like eyes themselves, which illuminate the poet's path through the symbolic darkness of the world, blazing so strongly that "... le soleil/Rougit, mais n'eteint pas leur flamme fantastique." On the other hand, visually speaking, no letter in French could better represent iconically the referent [torch] than a printed capital Y. It is all the more fitting, then, that the word being compared (twice) to a torch is not just "yeux" (lower-case) but "Yeux" (upper-case), so as to drive home the point. Moreoever, in the only two other texts which Baudelaire wrote specifically about eyes, "Les Yeux de Berthe" and "Les Yeux des Pauvres," which treat eyes in other symbolic ways, one finds no such graphemic sculpting at work. Neither the verse-poem nor the prose poem, that is, contain any instance of the word "yeux" capitalized. This suggests strongly, then, that in "Le Flambeau vivant" the sculptural value of the upper-case Y's complements the patent symbolism of the eyes as torch that Baudelaire develops elsewhere in this particular poem.

One could extend this line of reasoning and note that the doubling of the letter/v/in the adjective "vivant" further obliges us to to read it in this manner. It is as if the upper "lively" (read "vive") part of the torch, the actual flame, were re-presented in and by the shape of these letters. Indeed, this also helps to explain the attention-drawing role played by the pre-nominal position of the adjective "vivant" in line 8 "ce vivant flambeau," that in fact reverses the word order of the title. Baudelaire, of course, admired Victor Hugo's poetic vision for a long time, and may well have assimilated some of the lessons of his experimentation with letters as found in Les Contemplations (1856), but which Hugo had actually articulated in his travel journal of 1839.(10)

However, even in the manuscript of Baudelaire's play, L'Ideolus (abandoned in 1843, purportedly because of Hugo's failure with Les Burgraves, and whose hero is a sculptor, as it turned out), one also discovers variants that clearly indicate the poet's awareness of the possible sculptural manipulation of letters, specifically, the upper-case Y. In a passage about the capriciousness of Cupid, who thanks to his golden arrow ("poincon dore") transforms a lover into whatever he wants, Baudelaire writes:

L'amour qui le transforme et le change a son gre

[Semble le modeler sous un poincon dore]

Y creuse chaque jour sous son stilet sacre


Y plonge chaque jour son stilet acere

Rapprochez ce miroir... prenez cette corbeille...

Sa piqure ressemble [a celle d'une] aux piqures d'abeille.

(Pichois 1458)

Now, it should be stressed that neither one of these variants actually made its way into the later versions of this scene. Yet, what should still interest us here is the poet's use of the upper-case Y at the very beginning of these verses to convey visually the idea of "diving into" or "digging into" associated with either a bee's stinger or Cupid's sacred stylus. To be sure, this is not what Baudelaire used it for in "Le flambeau vivant;" but, at the same time, it proves that he was obviously aware that such metaphoric textual chisling(11) was possible. Just as Victor Hugo was when, in 1839, he wrote: "Avez-vous jamais remarque comme l'Y est une lettre pittoresque qui a des significations sans nombre?--L'arbre est un Y; l'embranchement de deux routes est un Y; [...] un verre sur son pied est un Y; un lys sur sa tige est un Y." (Seamon n.15, 305)

I now turn to some other examples. In "La Danse Macabre," again dedicated to the sculptor Ernest Christophe, Baudelaire imagines in grotesque detail the danse of a female skeleton. What draws my attention here is the fourth quatrain:

Ses yeux profonds sont faits de vide et de tenebres,

Et son crane, de fleurs artistement coiffe,

Oscille mollement sur ses freles vertebres.

O charme d'un neant follement attife!

As the poet has focused in once more on a pair of eyes, which here are empty, it is difficult not to notice the two Os which begin verses 3 & 4. This is the only such coincidence of capital O's in the entire poem; in fact, a capital O appears in just one other place, in a later apostrophe to all skeletons towards the poem's end ("O squelettes musques"), as if to suggest that the rounded emptiness of their ocular orbits characterizes better than anything else these hideous creatures.

Moreover, in verses 3 & 4, one notes the repetition of the letter O within an adverbial minimal pair in the words "mollement" and "follement," which horizontally parallel the emptiness or roundness ("neant") of the pair of Os already noted on the vertical axis. If this sculpting were not enough for us to appreciate visually these bones, Baudelaire furthers his case with an initial pun on the word "Oscille," which metrically and phonemically breaks down into [os] and [sil], "bone" and "eyelash," respectively, both of which metonymically reinvoke these "boney eyes." I wonder, too, whether "mollement" should not also be paronomastically linked to a would-be, neologistic adverb eminently appropriate to this kind of "bone-dancing," one I might rewrite as follows: "moellement." After all, within the descriptive system of bones, marrow (moelle) figures prominently. One might thus say that this skeleton dances "marrow-ly," a decidedly grotesque image, dear to both Baudelaire and Villon.

In "La Chevelure," Baudelaire verbally sculpts hair by analogous, though perhaps even more evident, means. It reads:

O toison, moutonnant jusque sur l'encolure!

O boucles! O parfum charge de nonchaloir


In these two opening verses, one counts eleven occurrences of O in a sequence composed of only 10 actual words, not counting the many composite or truncated o-shapes among the c's, b, g, p, and q. The preponderance of this letter continues throughout the poem, in the repeated apostrophes, the preposition "oh," and the many other words containing two O's: mouchoir, profondeurs, coco, goudron, toujours, and the like. All of which means that insofar as Baudelaire is describing a whole world in a "chevelure" he has managed thereby to chisel into his poem the round shape thematically developed on other levels, from the collar hole in the fleece ("l'encolure") to the reflection of a round sky in the verses, "Cheveux bleus, pavilion de tenebres tendues//Vous me rendez l'azur du ciel immense et rond." (my emphasis) Lest one dismiss the underlying thematic importance of this circular, bassin-like shape into which the poet first gazes and then wishes to plunge ecstatically, it is important to remember that his prose poem "analog" to this piece is titled precisely "Un hemisphere dans une chevelure." (my emphasis)

My final example, taken from "Une charogne," involves the sculptural arrangement of the strophes, whose verses vary in feet from 12 to 8 throughout. This produces a poem whose margins present what I will describe as either a repeated V-shape within each quatrain, or a kind of zigzag from one verse to the next. Here is how it begins:

Rappelez-vous l'objet que nous vimes, mon ame,

Ce beau matin d'ete si doux:

Au detour d'un sentier une charogne infame

Sur un lit seme de cailloux,

Les jambes en l'air, comme une femme lubrique,

Brulante et suant les poisons,

Ouvrait d'une facon nonchalante et cynique

Son ventre plein d'exhalaisons.


In schematic form, here are the two alternative graphic shapes that I propose are produced by the verses and margins of each quatrain in this poem. The two figures in question can be visualized by seeing the outlines of the poem's quatrains as blocks of printed text on the page:


In the first case, this arrangement can be read vertically as a series of descending, or conversely, ascending, two-verse units. The descending movement, that I shall qualify thematically as "spleenetique," reproduces the downward gaze of the narrator who looks into this V-shaped carcass that he explicitly states lifts: "Les jambes en l'air, comme une femme lubrique." The sun's rays, too, descend directly upon it as if to burn it to a crisp.

In contemplating this object putrify, however, the sun or, even better, the narrator, watches it "comme une fleur s'epanouir." A fetid odeur rises upward out of the carcass, just like the "noirs bataillons de larves" which flow up and outward from "ce ventre putride." Paradoxically, this flowing upward constitutes an ascending, ideal-like movement, one which conjurs up these Vshaped units, but, this time, as they might move in the opposite direction, upwards towards the sky, precisely like a blossoming flower (of evil) would. Both movements, though, are made explicit by the poet himself, when he writes:

Tout cela descendait, montait comme une vague,

Ou s'elancait en petillant;

On eut dit que le corps, enfle d'un souffle vague,

Vivait en se multipliant.

The ambiguous co-presence throughout the poem of these opposing movements can also be accounted for by my second proposed reading of the sculpturally-arranged verses as vertical zigzags. In seeing the poem chiseled this way on the page, one cannot know anymore than with the first overall typographic quatrain shape which is the point of origin, nor which is the point of destination of these lines, as if top and bottom were interchangeable. The visual zigzags produced on the page by each quatrain's margins also graphically re-present the many angles and physical displacements implied by the poem's thematic insistence on locations and shapes, as well as by its shifting narrative foci, repeatedly expressed in the following lines: "Au detour d'un sentier, .... le grain qu'un vanneur d'un mouvement rythmique//Agite et tourne dans son van, .... les formes s'effacaient et n'etaient plus qu'un reve/Une ebauche lente a venir," and "derriere les rochers//une chienne inquiete nous regardait." These narrative twists and turns nonetheless connect the poem's thematic threads from top to bottom, just as the poet's final words, "j'ai garde la forme et l'essence divine//De mes amours deomposes!" connect ideal and spleen.

Finally, throughout the poem, up to the instant when the narrator compares this "ordure" directly to his soul, the poet uses the passe simple instead of the passe compose. (Ironically, it is at this point that he shifts to the more intimate, "personal" tone of the latter.) In light of my reading, this anomaly results from its being twice overdetermined: first, by the circumflex accents in the otherwise exceedingly precious phrases "nous vimes, mon ame [...] une charogne infame" and "Vous crutes vous evanouir;" and second, by the extraordinary number of words containing the letter/v/throughout the text. For, to conclude, both of these graphemic elements function iconically as effective, if subtle, signals, pointing upward and downward.(12)

(1.) Most recently by Alan Bowness, Poetry and Painting: Baudelaire, Mallarme, Apollinaire, and the Painter Friends (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)

(2.) I have studied more completely the link between this word's etymology and its wider implications for the study of Baudelaire's work in "Baudelaire et ses hypocrites lecteurs" Orbis Litterarum 44 (1989) 222-233.

(3.) Marcel Raymond, "Baudelaire et la sculpture," Preuves: Les Idles qui cbangent le monde 207 (1968) 48.

(4.) David Scott, Pictorialist Poetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 58.

(5.) See remarks on this subject in David Seamon, Concrete Poetry in France (Ann Arbor: UMI Press, 1981), p. 91.

(6.) Quoted in Claude Pichois' edition of Baudelaire's Oeuvres completes (Paris: Editions de la Pleiade, 1975), I, p. 183. All further references to Baudelaire's works, unless otherwise noted, are to this edition and appear in the text.

(7.) See my "Visual signals in French poetry" in Stamos Metzidakis, ed. Understanding French Poetry: Essays for a New Millennium (New York and London: Garland, 1994) 71-86.

(8.) For more on a similar kind of graphic stylistics practiced by Renaissance poets, see Tom Conley, The Graphic Unconscious in Early Modern French Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

(9.) Summarized in Pichois, p.851.

(10.) Relevant passages quoted in Seamon, Concrete Poetry, pp. 34-36.

(11.) "Chiseling" is precisely the word that Jean Isidore Isou, founder of the Lettrism movement in the 1940s, later used to describe the period of poetic experimentation with letters that extended from Baudelaire down to him. See Seamon, p. 203.

(12.) My thanks to my former doctoral student, Ms. Myriam Roy, whose comments in her recently defended Ph.D. dissertation, Lecture des elements visuels chez Baudelaire, Rimbaud et Mallarme (Washington University 1997) helped me formulate this reading of "La Charogne."
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Author:Metzidakis, Stamos
Publication:The Romanic Review
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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