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  • Baudelaire et Nerval: poétiques comparées par Patrick Labarthe et Dagmar Wieser
  • Anthony Zielonka
Baudelaire et Nerval: poétiques comparées. Textes réunis par Patrick Labarthe et Dagmar Wieser, avec la collaboration de Jean-Paul Avice. (Romantisme et modernités, 164). Paris: Honoré Champion, 2015. 264 pp., ill.

This volume contains the proceedings of a conference held at the University of Zurich comparing the poetics and poetic practices of Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire. It consists of twelve essays on aspects of the two poets’ work, a preface by Patrick Labarthe, and a moving introductory essay by Yves Bonnefoy. Bonnefoy and several of the other contributors quote and offer their own interpretations of Baudelaire’s famous appreciative comments on Nerval’s poetic genius, written exactly one year after the elder poet’s presumed suicide, in January 1855: ‘Il y a aujourd’hui, 26 janvier, juste un an, [un écrivain] d’une honnêteté admirable, d’une haute intelligence, et qui fut toujours lucide, alla discrètement, sans déranger personne,—si discrètement que sa discrétion ressemblait à du mépris,—délier son âme dans la rue la plus noire qu’il pût trouver’ (quoted on p. 20; original emphasis). Despite clear differences in outlook, poetic and personal preoccupations, and sensibilities, a number of important convergences between the two poets’ Romantic and post-Romantic visions of the world, and their poetic innovations and achievements, are identified and analysed in these studies of specific aspects of their works. The comparison proves a fruitful one in Violaine Boneu’s essay on Nerval, Baudelaire and the idyll revisited, in two essays on flower imagery by Corinne Bayle and Michel Brix, and in Luca Pietromarchi’s comparative study of their personal reworking of pagan and Arcadian imagery of nature. There are also interesting essays on the theme of la flânerie (by Gabrielle Chamarat-Malandain), a central preoccupation in both poets’ work; on memory (Odile Bombarde); on their diverging interests in and utilization of fantasy and the fantastic (Olivier Pot); on the idea of charity (Dagmar Wieser); and on music and symbolism (Kurt Schärer). Of particular interest and originality is Jean-Nicolas Illouz’s longer essay, which presents a fascinating study of both writers’ interest in and experiences of early photography (including, in the case of Nerval, daguerreotypes), and of the photographs of them that were taken by Nadar, all reproduced here. The final essay, by Aurélie Loiseleur, is a revealing analysis of Marcel Proust’s enduring fascination with the lives of these two great poets, and with the themes of illness, madness, and suffering in their works, their heightened perception of reality, and their almost saintly conceptions of heroism and artistic creativity.

Anthony Zielonka
Assumption College


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