Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith

Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith

Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith

Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith

Synopsis

This study of Baudelaire's canonisation in the critical debates of the 20th century focuses particularly on his role in the development of a modernist consciousness. Baudelaire's poetry is examined in detail.

Excerpt

Since the early twentieth century, Charles Baudelaire's poetry has been deeply implicated in attempts to define aesthetic modernism. Baudelaire himself, in Le Peintre de la vie moderne (The painter of modern life), was among the first French critics to use the term modernité. the definition of a specifically modern art preoccupied him in critical essays devoted to the works of Poe, Delacroix, and Wagner. He asked the same questions of each of these artists: "How is it that he produces a sensation of novelty? What does he give us which is more than the past has given us? He is as great as the great, as skillful as the skillful, but why does he please us more?" (oc, 2: 636). It is perhaps natural that these same questions would be asked of Baudelaire by the generation of writers that came of age half a century later, around the time of the First World War. This was a remarkable moment in several respects. the year 1913 has been called the annus mirabilis of French literature, since it saw the publication of Proust's Combray and Apollinaire's Alcools, and marked Valéry's return to poetry after a fifteen-year silence. While much has been said about the literary production of these years, less attention has been paid to the work of historical revisionism that was taking place simultaneously. the same writers who produced the modernist masterpieces of the early twentieth century were also engaged in a reevaluation of their literary predecessors. To cite André Malraux, the moment represented both a "revolution of the present" and a "metamorphosis of the past" (p. 9). No other figure . . .

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