Poem & symbol : a brief history of French symbolism /

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Main Author: Fowlie, Wallace, 1908-
Format: Book
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This excellent undergraduate and general reader's guide to major figures of late 19th-century French poetry is conceived in a relaxed academic style that eschews jargon, footnotes, and quotations other than from the poets under study. A sketch of the background of French symbolism invokes a tenet that is particularly applicable in the art world's current struggles with definitions, namely that "a vigorous, bold depiction of vice and passion can have a moral effect on the public." This brief history stretching from "art for art's sake" to the decademce highlights the international character of these currents. Fowlie, ever the master teacher, explains basic allusions and gives straightforward interpretations of two Nerval poems with particular reference to their influence on T.S. Eliot. Baudelaire as the poet of the great city (Paris) and Eliot's reading of Baudelaire constitute the principal focus of another essay. Mallarme's elitist concept of the art of poetry and his pivotal role in redefining French verse are briefly set forth and followed by detailed commentary of "Le Pitre Chatie" built on Fowlie's earlier publications on the subject with some influences of more recent scholarship. Other chapters on Jules Laforgue, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Corbiere complete the survey, which ends with a rich summing up of the legacy of symbolism as evidenced in such 20th-century poets as Valery, Claudel, Saint-John Perse, and Rene Char. An appendix includes letters from Allen Tate and Rene Char to Fowlie. The very limited bibliography offers sound advice for further study but provides little if any direction for research scholars. W. L. McLendon University of Houston

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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