The French Parnassian Poets

The French Parnassian Poets

The French Parnassian Poets

The French Parnassian Poets

Synopsis

Robert T. Denommé, who has written extensively on French literature, here offers a companion volume to his Nineteenth-Century French Romantic Poets, previously published in this series. Once again working within an historical, philosophical, and aesthetic context, he provides a wealth of critical insights for the general reader as well as the specialist.

His first chapter surveys the evolution of poetic expression in France, and succeeding chapters study the major poets- Théophile Gautier, Théodore de Banville, Leconte de Lisle, and José-Maria de Heredia.

Incisive and concise, the book provides a good general introduction to, and a long-overdue reassessment of, French Parnassianism.

Excerpt

Few countries in the nineteenth century had so vigorous an opposition to Romanticism as that provided by the Parnassians in France.

Romanticism had taken a strong hold there after the revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. Napoleon, for all the pictures and descriptions of him in columned buildings done in the Classical style, was essentially a Romantic. When he met Goethe, he told the author of Werther he had read that novel seven times, carrying it in his saddlebag on campaigns. Werther (1774) was one of the first influential Romantic books; between 1776 and 1779, it was translated fifteen times, and had almost as powerful effect on young Frenchmen as upon the youthful Germans who adopted the Werther costume.

English Romanticism also flourished in French translations, and Chateaubriand Génie du Christianisme (1802) helped stimulate interest in English books. But the crest came in 1830, with the production of Hugo Hernani, rumored to be too innovative and radical for conservative theatergoers to approve of. When on the opening night they tried to beat down the actors by shouting and clapping, the young Romanticists cheered the play on, as they were also to do at the second performance. Théophile Gautier, the painter who was to become a poet, was among the Romantics on those occasions, wearing the red jacket which was to become famous. In the present book, Professor Denommé of the University of Virginia shows how Gautier, as a poet, left . . .

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