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Whidden, Seth, ed. Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen.

Whidden, Seth, ed. Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. 187. ISBN: 978-0-7546-6643-1

In his useful introduction to this collection of twelve essays, Seth Whidden proposes "a new model for considering literary collaboration" (3), one that examines the nature of the collaborative texts themselves rather than attempting to get into the minds of writers. At issue in these studies are two general categories of collaboration: in prcesentia (where co-authors are physically present when the work is created) and in absentia (where one of the co-authors is not). Taken together, the essays elucidate "what, precisely, was at stake in collaboration, that it was so prevalent, with such a variety of approaches, throughout the nineteenth century" (11).

Joan DeJean's and lack Iverson's opening contributions may seem out of place in a book devoted to the nineteenth century (the other 'bookend' for this volume, Daphne de Marneffe's study of 1920s Belgian literary journals, stretches this point further). However, the aim of DeJean's short piece is to show that while the early nineteenth was in many ways "a brave new literary world," it actually continued, rather than broke with, pre-Revolutionary practice in which collaboration was the rule, not the exception (19). La Rochefoucauld was more editor than single author of Les Maximes, for example, as was Madame de Lafayette in the case of Zayde and La Princesse de Cleves. As for the eighteenth century, Iverson underlines the importance of collaborative endeavors such as the Encyclopedie, whose articles were meant to "interact with one another to yield a powerful cumulative impact" (27). Contacts and exchanges resulting from gatherings of philosophes were invaluable in stimulating intellectual activity; "conviviality and creativity," Iverson argues, "went hand in hand" (32).

Of the remaining nine essays--each a worthwhile investment of reading time--those by Pascal Durand, Whidden, Jennifer K. Wolter, Frederic Canovas, and Pamela A. Genova stand out. Durand affirms that Le Tombeau de Theophile Gautier not only epitomizes collaboration in the nineteenth century, with its eighty poems by almost eighty poets and its wide range of poetic forms, but stands as a fitting tribute to a poet who, as "painter, engraver, serial writer and artist writer, licentious poet and poet cherishing the 'contour pur,'" was "a whole artistic field, all by himself" (71). Whidden casts a wide net, looking first at L'Album zutique, a collection of poems, jokes, rants, and illustrations; then at Charles Cros's poem "Le Fleuve," for which Manet provided etchings; and finally, at Manet's work with Mallarme on the latter's translation of Poe's "The Raven"--a partnership in which additional layers of collaboration were entangled: Poe's with Mallarme and Manet, and Baudelaire's hypotexte (his own translation of "The Raven" published twenty years earlier) with Mallarme's hypertexte.

Canovas also explores the connections between visual and literary arts in his study of painter Maurice Denis's illustrations for Verlaine's Sagesse and Gide's Le Voyage d'Urien. He suspects that there is a correlation between the closeness of the DenisGide collaboration (in contrast to the extremely limited Denis-Verlaine one) and the superiority of the illustrations for Le Voyage.... Denis, who preferred the term "decoration" to "illustration"--which he felt subjugated the image to its textual equivalent (127)--"simply illustrated" Verlaine's text, whereas he "decorated" Gide's (128), taking such liberties as including a great number of female figures, "in full contradiction" to Gide's male-dominated text (134). For Canovas, the Denis-Gide collaboration represents "a milestone in the history of illustrated books: the moment when a visual artist finally decided to question the subordination of his art to literature in order to follow his own aesthetic and artistic goals" (135). Under scrutiny in Genova's contribution is La Revue Wagnerienne, the brainchild of Edouard Dujardin and "a singularly interesting example of literary journalism" thanks to its blend of methodologies and formats and its balance between theoretical and more informal/informative pieces (143). Genova notes that though Dujardin claimed to want to "open the elitist circle of French Wagnerism," much of what was published in the journal suggests otherwise (144). In the final analysis, La Revue Wagnerienne had little to do with music, German culture, or Wagner, and "a great deal to do with a phenomenon characterized by its primarily poetic, French, collective nature, that is, Symbolism itself" (148).

Wolter's piece on Les Soirees de Medan posits that the stories in the collection are "more a reflection of the outward battle of naturalism than the real battles of the Franco-Prussian War" (117). She challenges the prevalent reading of the work as a naturalist manifesto or "a unified declaration of literary ideals" (107); the preface to Therese Raquin far better serves that purpose. Rather than "'travailleurs solidaires' united in the common cause of naturalism," the Medan writers were, according to Wolter, "distinct 'genies solitaires' [whose individuality] was not sacrificed for the sake of the group or in the name of naturalism" (113).

Other contributions examine the Romantic cenacles (Anthony Glinoer), Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian's L'Ami Fritz (Julia Przybos), Andre Gill and Louis de Gramont's La Muse a Bibi (Joseph Acquisito), and the Freres Goncourt's Manette Salomon (Lawrence R. Schehr).

Minor glitches aside--a few typos, rough spots in the translation of some pieces originally written in French and in the English of some native speakers of French, plus individual bibliographies which give the effect of a series of free-standing pieces instead of an integrated collection--this is an impressive book offering a pleasing mix of essays on old favorites and on unfamiliar works whose time to share the limelight has surely come.

Hope Christiansen, University of Arkansas
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Author:Christiansen, Hope
Publication:Nineteenth-Century French Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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