Symbolist Movement


symbolists, in literature, a school originating in France toward the end of the 19th cent. in reaction to the naturalism and realism of the period. Designed to convey impressions by suggestion rather than by direct statement, symbolism found its first expression in poetry but was later extended to the other arts. The early symbolists experimented with form, revolting against the rigidity of the Parnassians with a free verse that has outlived the movement itself. The precursors of the school, all influenced by Baudelaire, included Verlaine, Mallarmé, and Rimbaud. They were accused of writing with a decadent morbidity, partly as the result of their utilization of imagination as a reality. The movement was continued in poetry by Laforgue, Moréas, and Régnier; in drama by Maeterlinck; in criticism by Remy de Gourmont; and in music by Debussy. Among the later symbolists were Claudel, Valéry, Jammes, and the critic Camille Mauclair. The influence of the French symbolists not only gave rise to similar schools in England, Germany, and other countries, but also may be traced in the development of the imagists and decadents; it is likewise evident in the work of Arthur Symons, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Eugene O'Neill, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, William Faulkner, and E. E. Cummings.

See C. M. Bowra, The Heritage of Symbolism (1943); W. K. Cornell, The Symbolist Movement (1970); A. Balakian, The Symbolist Movement (1967, repr. 1977) and ed., The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages (1982).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Symbolist Movement: Selected full-text books and articles

Symbolism By Robert Goldwater Westview Press, 1998
The Tuning of the Word: The Musico-Literary Poetics of the Symbolist Movement By David Michael Hertz Southern Illinois University Press, 1987
The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature By Gilbert Highet Oxford University Press, 1985
Librarian's tip: Chap 22 "The Symbolist Poets and James Joyce"
The Background of Modern French Poetry: Essays and Interviews By P. Mansell Jones University Press, 1951
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Whitman and the Symbolists"
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Heritage of Symbolism By C. M. Bowra MacMillan, 1943
The Critic's Alchemy: A Study of the Introduction of French Symbolism into England By Ruth Zabriskie Temple Twayne Publishers, 1953
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "The Symbolist Movement"
From Gautier to Eliot: The Influence of France on English Literature, 1851-1939 By Enid Starkie Hutchinson, 1960
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Symbolism"
The Frenzied Poets: Andrey Biely and the Russian Symbolists By Oleg A. Maslenikov University of California Press, 1952
Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement By Simon Morrison University of California Press, 2002
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.