The Anthropological Turn in Poetry from Rimbaud to Leiris

By Blanchard, Marc | The Romanic Review, January 1994 | Go to article overview

The Anthropological Turn in Poetry from Rimbaud to Leiris


Blanchard, Marc, The Romanic Review


The argument of this paper is threefold. First, to the extent that Western poetry since the pre-Socratics discourses on human affairs, this discourse combines philosophical insights with perceptions of an everyday world in terms of primary spatial differences. Second, the notion that the physical underpins the metaphysical suggests that poetry is less a belletristic activity than a privileged, ritual social practice, whose function is to locate the subject in the social text and to articulate this subjectivity in the reader's own life-world. Epic poetry, originally the preferred mode of reminiscing and recording, remained for the longest time the premier form of collective memory in culture. After the epic disappeared, however, this cultural aspect was attenuated and poetry was confined to the margins of fiction and history. In the modern age, i.e., mostly since Blake and the Romantics, poetry has been autobiographical in range and has featured the tribulations of the individual poet as hero in a poetry of his own making, the two best examples in French poetry being Rimbaud and Lautreamont.(2) To rediscover the anthropological function of poetry, both as the fashioner of and the reflector on culture, means for the anthropologist, to find how much of its own tradition modern poetry can collect and translate in terms applicable to the everyday world. However, and this will be the third point of this paper, a critique of the classical tradition in modern poetry involves a difficult trope on the idea of return. On the one hand, in claiming modernity, poetry continues to fashion its origin out of a traditional modern/classical divide. On the other hand, it also articulates the impossibility of this origin (the modern did not originate in the classical) and it works through the hermeneutic consequences of such an impossibility for the community of poets and their readers: the world out there can only exist for us if it is, first, interpreted and second, if the interpretation provides us with transparent metaphors for obscure phenomena. In other words, the interpretation produces a translation, in which the specificity of experience is both theorized, i.e., in the etymological and masculine sense, gazed at, and mourned (the subject of experience is an absent other, often with no name and no personal history). This complex translatability, then, has a certain untranslatability as its other face, as the poetic text is essentially the locus of a signature, that of absent or dead poets who want their readers to read the poetic text as the very ground for the inscription of an experience which can't properly be assigned to anyone in particular.(3)

However, because many poets have at one time or other themselves engaged in translating other poets, the point can be made that this translating enterprise from one language, especially the original Greek or Latin, into the vernacular European language is literally at the root of the poetic enterprise. Here I seem to privilege a Eurocentric move, but the formal gesture of adapting the classics of culture, only one of the aspects of standing up for the "canon," is in fact made by all cultures as a contextualizing gesture, permitting various degrees of identification with and difference from an established tradition.(4) In European culture, however, the problem of acknowledging a particular tradition and of developing a poetic practice which speaks to that tradition and translates it in contemporary terms, becomes especially acute in the post-Romantic period. At that time, the concept of poetic genius interpreting Nature in a work of its own unique origination and controlling representation through imagination (Coleridge) or philosophy (Hoelderlin) or language (Hugo), is no longer available.(5) Nature has been displaced by machines and a modern postBaudelairean poetry wants to establish its own autonomous space distinct from the naturalized space of industry and capitalism.(6) This means, on the one hand, a rejection of the cliches of Romanticism and on the other hand, an ongoing gesture of rejecting the tradition in which those cliches originate, especially the tradition of an artistic claim for universal truth and beauty transcending history. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Anthropological Turn in Poetry from Rimbaud to Leiris
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    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.