Baudelaire: L'Irréductible by Antoine Compagnon

By Antoine Compagnon

Contrairement à l'idée reçue qui fait de lui le précurseur des avant-gardes du XXe siècle, Baudelaire fut à l. a. fois moderne et antimoderne. On l’éprouve ici devant certaines nouveautés qui l’obsédèrent : los angeles presse, l. a. photographie, l. a. ville et l’art.

C’étaient diverses facettes d’une même « selected moderne », fuyante et contradictoire, à laquelle il donna le nom de modernité.
Le poète allie devant elles l’horreur et l’extase : les journaux à grand tirage le dégoûtent, mais il assiège ces « canailles » de directeurs pour qu’ils le publient ; il attaque los angeles photographie, mais il pose pour des clichés de légende. Cette ambivalence constitue los angeles toile de fond du Spleen de Paris, sommet des contradictions du dernier Baudelaire, véritable objecteur de los angeles moral sense moderne.

Un Baudelaire insoupçonné autant qu’irréductible.

Cahier picture papier/numérique

Illustration originale d’après un portrait de Charles Baudelaire par Nadar, vers 1855
© Flammarion, 2014.

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Extra resources for Baudelaire: L'Irréductible

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The consolation of the poetic representation of human love is that it reveals to us that condition of feeling we share with others—it gives us ‘the image of man and nature’—but not, or not wholly, as articulated in the common run of concepts, but as articulated in a particular concrete representation that speaks to us and for us in our individual situation, and only through this to and for our common humanity. 10 Cameron’s conclusions do not differ widely from those of other modern literary theorists and aestheticians.

E. 7 If this is true— and it surely is—then reality is structured by the novelist not only in the particular characters, events, and objects in which he represents it, but initially in the words and arrangements of words with which he creates these characters, events, and objects. In this case a novel is made of words just as much as a poem is made of words. Here, I think, we approach the philosophical heart of the matter: the relation of literary language to reality. But before proceeding any further I wish to consider two empirical arguments frequently used to suggest that the novelist’s use of language differs radically from the poet’s, and in such a way as not to merit the kind of attention we give to the poet’s.

The high degree of phonological activity in poetry is not, in other words, a valid reason for regarding its language as essentially different from that of prose. It can encourage such a view, however, if the lyric, particularly the modern lyric, is taken as the poetic norm. Here, the phonological element plays a crucial role in organizing our responses to a semantic content which is often too complicated and ambivalent to submit to the logical organization of grammar. It is the phonology of words which most encourages us to think of them as in some way ‘solid’, as shapes in the mouth, as concrete embodiments of abstract meaning.

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