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Cinepoetry: Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry

Imaginary Cinemas in French Poetry

Christophe Wall-Romana

Publication Year: 2012

Cinepoetry analyzes how French poets have remapped poetry through the lens of cinema for more than a century. In showing how poets have drawn on mass culture, technology, and material images to incorporate the idea, technique, and experience of cinema into writing, Wall-Romana documents the long history of cross-media concepts and practices often thought to emerge with the digital.In showing the cinematic consciousness of Mallarm? and Breton and calling for a reappraisal of the influential poetry theory of the early filmmaker Jean Epstein, Cinepoetry reevaluates the bases of literary modernism. The book also explores the crucial link between trauma and trans-medium experiments in the wake of two world wars and highlights the marginal identity of cinepoets who were often Jewish, gay, foreign-born, or on the margins.What results is a broad rethinking of the relationship between film and literature. The episteme of cinema, the book demonstates, reached the very core of its supposedly highbrow rival, while at the same time modern poetry cultivated the technocultural savvy that is found today in slams, e-poetry, and poetic-digital hybrids.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Verbal Arts

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

The topic of this book was first developed in Suzanne Guerlac’s poetry and vision seminar in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley, which led to my work with Ann Smock, also in the Department of French at Berkeley. My thanks go to both of them for their confidence in this project, as well as to the...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv-16

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Introduction: Cinema as Imaginary Medium in French Poetry

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pp. 1-52

It is a well-known fact that French poets such as Antonin Artaud and Jean Cocteau worked in cinema, and several critics have examined at some length the thematic presence of film in modernist poetry, albeit mostly in the Anglo-American domain. Literary criticism has only begun probing the more complex...

PART ONE: The Early Poetic Sensorium of the Apparatus

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pp. 53-70

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1. Mallarmé Unfolds the Cinématographe

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pp. 55-78

In 1898, Stéphane Mallarmé became the first poet to comment in writing on the new Cinématographe.2 Concurrently, he wrote the first poem mediated by cinema—Un Coup de dés—and began to plan a live performance combining poetry, cinema, and other media, an unfinished project that came to...

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2. The Pen-Camera: Raymond Roussel’s Freeze-Frame Panorama

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pp. 79-96

While the writings of Mallarmé are rarely read from the purview of scientific and technological developments, those of Raymond Roussel (1877–1933) have in many ways initiated such readings. Imbued with Jules Verne’s science fiction and the vulgarization of scientific culture in journals such as...

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3. Le Film surnaturel: Cocteau’s Immersive Writing

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pp. 97-110

Jean Cocteau, born the same year as Abel Gance (1889), was among the first poets to take note of cinema and experiment with ways of integrating it into writing, before even turning to filmmaking per se. His signal cinepoetic contribution was to reinterpret bodily experiencing through elements of the...

PART TWO: Telepresence of the Marvelous: Cinepoetic Theories in the 1920s

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pp. 111-128

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4. Jean Epstein’s Invention of Cinepoetry

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pp. 113-135

The hyperesthesia experienced by Cocteau during the spectacle of image projection and Foucault’s passion for Roussel’s “La Vue” at the time he was writing Birth of the Clinic hint at intersections between cinepoetics and medicine. Already in the 1890s, Jules-Étienne Marey as a trained physiologist and...

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5. Breton’s Surrealism, or How to Sublimate Cinepoetry

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pp. 136-157

“In 1924,” Gérard Durozoi writes, with a poke at Marx, “a specter haunted Paris—at any rate, the specter of Surrealism.”2 That specter haunts today’s poetry studies in French, the criticism of international modernism and theories of the avant-garde, whether in writing, art, or film. André Breton was of course...

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6. Doing Filmic Things with Words: On Chaplin

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pp. 158-173

A survey of Dada sympathizers in Breton and Aragon’s journal Littérature ranked the popularity of world personalities in 1921. After Breton and Aragon (noblesse oblige), the most popular personality—ahead of Rimbaud, Vaché, Ducasse, and the likes of Dante, Marx, and Jesus—was Charlie...

PART THREE: Cinepoetry and Postwar Trauma Cultures

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pp. 175-192

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7. The Poem-Scenario in the Interwar (1917–1928)

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pp. 177-204

After two amputations of portions of his right arm, Cendrars fell into a depression in 1916, with rare bright spots at the movies. In a poem of that year dedicated to Erik Satie, he wrote: “Theme: Orchestra conductor CHARLIE CHAPLIN keeps time [bat la mesure].”2 The keeping of time, finding a new life...

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8. Reembodied Writing: Lettrism and Kinesthetic Scripts (1946–1959)

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pp. 205-256

The disintegration of France in 1940, the Occupation and the collaboration leading to the deportation of Jews, then the Liberation—each would seem to have further eroded the ideal of a techno-social utopia that had largely inspired the high days of cinepoetry in the 1920s. Marked by purges of collaborators...

Image Plates

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pp. 273-280

PART FOUR: Cinema’s Print Culture in Poetry

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pp. 257-282

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9. Postlyricism and the Movie Program: From Jarry to Alferi

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pp. 259-289

This cinepoem “intermixes” spring and film—the green “lawn” seen through a “crystal” lens. Images of growth, from trees and flowers to birds and insects do not point to the pastoral ode of romanticism: they suggest instead the automorphic images of cinema. Jacob—living in Paris, across the street...

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10. Cine-Verse: Decoupage Poetics and Filmic Implicature

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pp. 290-310

As mentioned in the Introduction, an overwhelming number of concepts from cognitive linguistics and pragmatics were derived from cinema without much questioning as to the possibly nonheuristic nature of such epistemological transfers. While “frame,” “script,” “scenario,” “flashback...

PART FIVE: Skin, Screen, Page: Cinepoetry’s Historical Imaginary

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pp. 311-336

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11. Max Jeanne’s Western: Eschatological Sarcasm in the Postcolony

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pp. 313-325

Critics who have pondered the changed relationship of literature and cinema in post–World War II French culture generally point toward Alain Resnais’s influence on new novelists such as Jean Cayrol, Marguerite Duras, and Alain Robbe-Grillet as a turning point.2 I have tried to show that the broader...

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12. Maurice Roche’s Compact: Word-Tracks and the Body Apparatus

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pp. 326-336

While Pomerand’s film La Peau du milieu (1953), documents the tattoos of the waning underworld, in Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man (1951), scenes tattooed on a man’s skin predict the future. This framing device serves to link eighteen different stories that Bradbury published between 1947 and...

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13. Nelly Kaplan’s Le Collier de ptyx: Mallarmé as Political McGuffin

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pp. 337-346

One constant of cinepoetry as an avant-garde practice is a paradoxically rear-guard attention to the cinematic imaginary long after mass culture and contemporaneous thought have taken it for granted. Saint-Pol-Roux’s anachronistic revival of symbolism through a utopian reappraisal of the film...

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Conclusion: The Film to Come in Contemporary Poetry

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pp. 347-374

The period during which cinepoetry best understood itself as an aesthetic project coincides with the utopian ethos of the literary avant-garde in the cinephilic interwar, from 1918 until the arrival of sound in 1929 and 1930. At other times it remained just under the surface currents of poetics, whose directions...


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pp. 375-431


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pp. 433-466


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pp. 467-480

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250332
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245482
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245489

Page Count: 504
Illustrations: 50 b/w
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text
Series Title: Verbal Arts