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Symbolist literature

Parent categories: Symbolist movement - literature

The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899) - Arthur Symons [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK] more ...

Related: French literature - Decadent movement - fin de siécle - poetry

Writers: Charles Baudelaire - Stéphane Mallarmé - Comte de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam

Theorists: Jean Moréas

The poetry of Baudelaire and much of the literature in the latter half of the century (or "fin de siècle") were often characterized as "decadent" for their lurid content or moral vision. In a similar vein, Paul Verlaine used the expression "poète maudit" ("accursed poet") in 1884 to refer to a number of poets like Tristan Corbière, Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud who had fought against poetic conventions and suffered social rebuke or had been ignored by the critics. But with the publication of Jean Moréas "Symbolist Manifesto" in 1886, it was the term symbolism which was most often applied to the new literary environment.

Definition (cultural movement)

Symbolism refers to a late-19th-century French and Belgian movement in poetry and other arts.

Precursors and origins

French Symbolism was in large part a reaction against Naturalism and Realism, movements which attempted to capture reality in its particularity. Symbolist movement poetry has been said by some to begin with the influential series of poems Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, although work by poets such as Gérard de Nerval and Arthur Rimbaud were also highly significant in this respect. Symbolism represents an outgrowth of the more gothic and darker sides of Romanticism as well as on a particular movement dubbed "the frenetic school"; but where Romanticism was impetuous and rebellious, Symbolism was static and hieratic (see comments by Mario Praz on Delacroix vs Moreau). The works of Edgar Allan Poe, whom Baudelaire translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images.

Based on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolism_(arts)

Symbolist poetry

Symbolism, as a type and movement in poetry, emphasized non-structured "internalized" poetry that, for lack of better words, describe thoughts and feelings in disconnected ways and places logic, formal structure, and descriptive reality in the back seat. Influences on the Symbolist poets included the dark, introspective romanticism of William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the Parnassianism of Théophile Gautier and Charles Leconte de Lisle. Charles Baudelaire is often perceived as the foremost precursor of Symbolist poetry. Symbolist poetry influenced the 20th century "modernist" poets such as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, as well as the movements of French Surrealism and Imagism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolist_poetry [Jul 2006]

Symbolist novels

Symbolism's cult of the static and hieratic adapted less well to narrative fiction than it did to poetry. Joris-Karl Huysmans' 1884 novel À rebours (English title: Against the Grain) contained many themes which became associated with the Symbolist esthetic. This novel in which very little happens is a catalogue of the tastes and inner life of Des Esseintes, an eccentric, reclusive antihero. The novel was imitated by Oscar Wilde in several passages of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Paul Adam was the most prolific and most representative author of Symbolist novels. Les Demoiselles Goubert co-written with Jean Moréas in 1886 is an important transitional work between Naturalism and Symbolism. Few Symbolists used this form. One exception is Gustave Kahn who published Le Roi fou in 1896. Other fiction that is sometimes considered Symbolist is the cynical misanthropic (and especially, misogynistic) tales of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly. Gabriele d'Annunzio wrote his first novels in the Symbolist vein. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolism_%28arts%29#Prose_fiction [Jul 2006]

Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and les Symbolistes

The French Symbolists of the 19th century took the "elegantly wasted" decadence of British fops like Coleridge and supplemented it with the language of romantic hysteria. The speed and jumpiness of these poets predates and predicts the cut-ups of William S. Burroughs and the dense language of Spasm culture a la Arthur Kroker. Rimbaud's oft-quoted "intentional disordering of the senses" inspired the likes of Keith Richards and Patti Smith in more modern times. Today, after the H-bomb, LSD, MTV, and VR, we find even the most poetic among postmodern youth longing for a reordering of the senses. Ain't gonna happen, son. --R. U. Sirius via Pomo To Go --Wired 2.06, June 1994

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