Cinepoetry: Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry

Cinepoetry: Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry

Cinepoetry: Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry

Cinepoetry: Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry


Cinepoetry analyzes how French poets have remapped poetry through the lens of cinema for more than a century. In showing how poets have drawn on mass culture, technology, and material images to incorporate the idea, technique, and experience of cinema into writing, Wall-Romana documents the long history of cross-media concepts and practices often thought to emerge with the digital. In showing the cinematic consciousness of Mallarme and Breton and calling for a reappraisal of the influential poetry theory of the early filmmaker Jean Epstein, Cinepoetry re-evaluates the bases of literary modernism. The book also explores the crucial link between trauma and trans-medium experiments in the wake of two world wars and highlights the marginal identity of cinepoets who were often Jewish, gay, foreign-born, or on the margins. What results is a broad rethinking of the relationship between film and literature. The episteme of cinema, the book demonstrates, reached the very core of its supposedly highbrow rival, while at the same time modern poetry cultivated the techno-cultural savvy that is found today in slams, e-poetry, and poetic-digital hybrids.


Cinema with ink and paper ought to do the job faster than cinema on film.

(is it a “book,” a “film”? the interval between the two?)


It is a well-known fact that French poets such as Antonin Artaud and Jean Cocteau worked in cinema, and several critics have examined at some length the thematic presence of film in modernist poetry, albeit mostly in the Anglo-American domain. Literary criticism has only begun probing the more complex ways in which relatively new technologies like cinema may have altered poetry’s forms, practices, and theories. After all, cinema has profoundly inflected the whole cultural landscape of modernity, so why should poetry have been spared?

It is to this simple question apparently difficult to come to ask— how has cinema transformed poetry?—that this book tries bringing answers in the case of poetry written in French. Although some are more definitive than others, these answers open or reopen wide-ranging debates about the nature of poetry, cinema, spectatorship, imagination, writing, perception, mediality, and remediation, to cite only a few rubrics. Ultimately, this book has three main goals: to demonstrate that French poetry at large has been thoroughly and continuously impressed with and imprinted by cinema; to understand through specific examples what it means for poetry to be considered “filmic” and for poets to engage in filmic writing; and finally to draw the main historical and theoretical consequences of such cross-medial practices. It should be added at the outset that only the want of space and personal expertise account for limiting the scope of this study to the so-called French domain—even though we will see that it, too, comes out redefined.

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