Meetings with Mallarme in Contemporary French Culture

Meetings with Mallarme in Contemporary French Culture

Meetings with Mallarme in Contemporary French Culture

Meetings with Mallarme in Contemporary French Culture

Synopsis

From Paul Valery to Julia Kristeva, the work of Stephane Mallarme has had a lasting impact on twentieth-century French culture. His texts have served as emblem and inspiration for successive generations of cultural theorists and practitioners. In Meetings with Mallarme, top scholars from the UK and USA have been specially commissioned to explore the significance of Mallarme's influence on some of the major players in French psychoanalysis, music, poetry, philosophy and literary theory. By re-staging these textual encounters, the book demonstrates how the ghostly presence of Stephane Mallarme profoundly informed the projects of such key figures as Valery, Lacan, Sartre, Derrida, Boulez, de Man, Bonnefoy, Kristeva, Blanchot and the Oulipo group. All quotations are translated.

Excerpt

Michael Temple

Et quant à lui, je pense qu’il considérait mon étonnement, sans étonnement

There are many good reasons for producing in 1998 a volume entitled Meetings with Mallarmé in contemporary French culture. Most obvious of these is a simple matter of timing, for the year will have marked the centenary of the first and most authentic of the poet’s many disappearances, which we have ceaselessly re-enacted and inexhaustibly interpreted ever since that violent surprise at Valvins, in 1898, when Mallarmé was still only fifty-six years old:

C’est notre plus grand poète. Un passionné, un furieux. Et maître
de lui jusqu’à pouvoir se tuer par un simple mouvement de la
glotte!

(He is our greatest poet. a fanatic, a madman. and master of
his destiny to the point of being able to kill himself by a simple
movement of the glottis!)

The rehearsal of that moment signifies today that, with patience and passion, we have been reading Mallarmé for more than a century now. Nor is there much indication that our curiosity has begun to wane. in fact, one could reasonably argue that Mallarmé’s power to attract and retain our attention has steadily grown over these past one hundred years.

It is true that during the three or four decades immediately following his death there seems to have been a respectful pause in those attentions, as if as readers we were afraid to acknowledge that . . .

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