Review by Choice Review
American poet Walt Whitman is renowned for his unconventional style, candor, relentless optimism, and unwavering celebrations of democracy. Seldom has he been compared to his contemporary Charles Baudelaire, a French poet noted for his ironic and cynical vision, his preoccupation with the perverse and the macabre, his elitism, and his aversion to progress, commercialism, and America. However, Katsaros (French and European studies, Amherst) persuasively demonstrates that these two literary figures, these ostensible polar opposites, have far more in common than critics have realized. For instance, both were romantic realists. Both were influenced by the visual culture of their era, especially by daguerreotypes, panoramas, and dioramas. Both were flaneurs who relished crowds and savored the manifold tableaux of 19th-century street life. Both were fundamentally city poets. Most important, both vainly attempted to memorialize cities--New York in Whitman's case, Paris in Baudelaire's--that were endlessly in flux, ceaselessly being destroyed, rebuilt, and reconfigured. Although brief, Katsaros's study contains illuminating commentary on numerous poems in Whitman's Leaves of Grass and in Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal and Le Spleen de Paris. The book is accessible to readers at large but will be particularly useful for students of English, French, and comparative literature. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. D. D. Kummings emeritus, University of Wisconsin--Parkside
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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