Baudelaire's Prose Poems: The Practice and Politics of Irony

Baudelaire's Prose Poems: The Practice and Politics of Irony

Baudelaire's Prose Poems: The Practice and Politics of Irony

Baudelaire's Prose Poems: The Practice and Politics of Irony

Synopsis

The aim of this book is to offer a new reading of Baudelaire's Petits Po¿mes en prose which demonstrates the significance of ironic otherness for the theory and functioning of the work and for the genre of the prose poem itself. The book considers Baudelaire's choice of this genre and the way in which he seeks to define it, both paratextually and textually. It examines the ways in which the prose poem depends on dualities and d¿boublements as forms of lyrical and narrative difference which, in their turn, reveal ideological otherness and declare the oppositionality of the prose poem. Finally, the book demonstrates a relationship between these forms of otherness and Baudelaire's theory of the popular comic arts and, in doing so, proposes that the prose poems should be read as literary caricature.

Excerpt

There is a tradition in criticism on Baudelaire's prose poetry to begin by justifying one's choice of this text. This is perhaps not surprising, given that another tradition within Baudelaire studies characterized the reader who did prefer the prose poems to Les Fleurs du real as 'généralement dépourvu d'oreille' and 'mal initié aux subtilités de la prosodie'. the fact is, though, that now the choice needs no justification, for the Petits Poèmes en prose are no longer neglected by scholars and their interest and diversity are reflected in an ever growing number of studies devoted, either partly or exclusively, to the work.

The aim of this book is to consider the different manifestations of irony in Baudelaire Petits Poèmes en prose and to demonstrate the centrality of these ironies to the theory and functioning of the new genre. the discussion of these takes different forms in the different stages of this account but, even when irony, or related concepts, are not being discussed directly, their significance should be clear in the inflections of the argument. the first chapter concentrates on Baudelaire's choice of genre and the way in which he seeks to define it, both by his careful consideration of titles and in the letter addressed to Arsène Houssaye, now attached as a form of preface to editions of the work. the threshold of Baudelaire's work is thus placed at the threshold of mine as an informing text. Although it is almost de rigueur amongst critics to cite aspects of this letter, it has not so far received the sort of detailed attention which properly promotes it to the status of a text in its own right. I have sought to redress this by subjecting it to close scrutiny in the light of broader discussions of the role of the paratext. When considered in this light, it reveals the dualities of the text as well as the duplicities of the author. the threshold of the Petits Poèmes en prose is, therefore, seen to be suggestive of the conflicting and duplicitous discursive modes of the poems themselves and to . . .

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