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French poetry and contemporary reality c. 1870 - 1887

Watson, Lawrence J. (1976) French poetry and contemporary reality c. 1870 - 1887. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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French poetry of the second half of the nineteenth century differed from earlier poetry in both the scope and subtlety of its treatment of contemporary reality. This poetic practice was based on a body of aesthetic and other philosophical thinking as well as a general awareness of the distinctive qualities of the new age. Modernist poets like Barbier, Du Camp and some of the Romantics had concentrated their efforts on the straight forward description or discussion of modern phenomena, events or social conditions in much the same way as some contemporary painters. Many poets felt a deep antipathy towards the modern age; some such as Leconte de Lisle avoided it in their work almost completely, but others contrasted it with a primitivist vision and the resulting tension is one of the dynamic aspects of their poetry. After 1870 this is particularly striking in the case of Rimbaud. A major new approach to the treatment of contemporary reality in art had been found in the aesthetic theory and poetic practice of Baudelaire which was of the utmost influence upon the succeeding generation. In Baudelaire's work was perhaps the first indication of a realisation of the aesthetic value not merely of generally modern but of specifically transitory phenomena. This may be seen as lying at the base of the perspectives, themes and language of the most important poetry produced in France in the years 1870-1887 with the near total exception of the work of Mallarme. In that period poets progressed from the realistic treatment of modernity to the creation of a radical new flexible poetic language to evoke a relativist, individual and utterly modem conception of the most fleeting and elusive experiences and phenomena of mind, emotion and sensation. One important ingredient in the new poetic language was the spontaneous and Affective element of ordinary speech, the value of which had been partly appreciated through the cenacle performances. The transition from superficial modernism to impressionism and then to a synthesis of external reality and emotion was closely matched and possibly encouraged by developments in painting.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1976
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 10:30

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