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Title: Rhythm, illusion and the poetic idea : Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé
Author: Evans, David E.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis examines the concept of rhythm and its importance to the survival of the French poetic idea following Baudelaire’s formal and generic revolution. Part One situates he symbolic value of poetic rhythm in terms of a religious world view which crumbles with the mid-nineteenth century fall of absolute values. Once an absolute notion of poetic beauty disappears, poetic rhythm and indeed, the very definition of poetry itself, become unstable and require constant re-motivation. Baudelaire, therefore, problematizes in prose poetry the characteristics by which we traditionally recognize and trust a poetic text, namely notions of form and the poet’s authority. Reading poetry now becomes a search for meaningful rhythm and constant values of poeticity as guaranteed by a provocative, enigmatic poet. Part Two suggests that Rimbaud’s aesthetic development follows a strikingly similar trajectory. Following failed experiments with objective and formally inclusive poetics, Illuminations presents form as constantly in process, towards an indefinitely deferred future perfection, and guaranteed by a similarly elusive, mischievous poet figure. Part Three explores Mallarmé’s realization of the fictional nature of the poetic idea, and the techniques via which he by turns admits and denies this fiction. Thus the illusion of Poetry’s universality is tempered by suggestions of the poet’s personal agenda. Poetic form is used to project a fictional hierarchy of aesthetic values and an Ideal whose guarantee is no longer an external divinity but rather, an internal poetic sensibility. The poetic value of rhythm and harmony is thus re-motivated, as verse regularity protects a henceforth unstable poetic idea, the fragility of which is acknowledged by a number of equally important irregularities. I conclude that, since the roots of French poetic modernity are to be found in this new awareness of the fundamental instability of the poetic idea, the poet’s task is now to defend Poetry from reduction to predictable, restrictive formal and thematic characteristics, with the poet himself assuming a self-consciously unstable authority. Critical appreciation of poetry requires, therefore, recognition of the mechanisms by which the poet allows the poeticity of his text to elude the reader, and a willingness to engage in a necessarily irresolvable search for guarantees of poeticity, in order to preserve the very mystery of Poetry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available