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  • Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen
  • Hope Christiansen
Whidden, Seth , ed. Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. 187. ISBN: 978-0-7546-6643-1

In his useful introduction to this collection of twelve essays, Seth Whidden proposes "a new model for considering literary collaboration" (3), one that examines the nature of the collaborative texts themselves rather than attempting to get into the minds of writers. At issue in these studies are two general categories of collaboration: in præsentia (where co-authors are physically present when the work is created) and in absentia (where one of the co-authors is not). Taken together, the essays elucidate "what, precisely, was at stake in collaboration, that it was so prevalent, with such a variety of approaches, throughout the nineteenth century" (11).

Joan DeJean's and Jack Iverson's opening contributions may seem out of place in a book devoted to the nineteenth century (the other 'bookend' for this volume, Daphné de Marneffe's study of 1920s Belgian literary journals, stretches this point further). However, the aim of DeJean's short piece is to show that while the early nineteenth was in many ways "a brave new literary world," it actually continued, rather than broke with, pre-Revolutionary practice in which collaboration was the rule, not [End Page 164] the exception (19). La Rochefoucauld was more editor than single author of Les Maximes, for example, as was Madame de Lafayette in the case of Zayde and La Princesse de Clèves. As for the eighteenth century, Iverson underlines the importance of collaborative endeavors such as the Encyclopédie, whose articles were meant to "interact with one another to yield a powerful cumulative impact" (27). Contacts and exchanges resulting from gatherings of philosophes were invaluable in stimulating intellectual activity; "conviviality and creativity," Iverson argues, "went hand in hand" (32).

Of the remaining nine essays—each a worthwhile investment of reading time—those by Pascal Durand, Whidden, Jennifer K. Wolter, Frédéric Canovas, and Pamela A. Genova stand out. Durand affirms that Le Tombeau de Théophile Gautier not only epitomizes collaboration in the nineteenth century, with its eighty poems by almost eighty poets and its wide range of poetic forms, but stands as a fitting tribute to a poet who, as "painter, engraver, serial writer and artist writer, licentious poet and poet cherishing the 'contour pur,'" was "a whole artistic field, all by himself" (71). Whidden casts a wide net, looking first at L'Album zutique, a collection of poems, jokes, rants, and illustrations; then at Charles Cros's poem "Le Fleuve," for which Manet provided etchings; and finally, at Manet's work with Mallarmé on the latter's translation of Poe's "The Raven"—a partnership in which additional layers of collaboration were entangled: Poe's with Mallarmé and Manet, and Baudelaire's hypotexte (his own translation of "The Raven" published twenty years earlier) with Mallarmé's hypertexte.

Canovas also explores the connections between visual and literary arts in his study of painter Maurice Denis's illustrations for Verlaine's Sagesse and Gide's Le Voyage d'Urien. He suspects that there is a correlation between the closeness of the Denis-Gide collaboration (in contrast to the extremely limited Denis-Verlaine one) and the superiority of the illustrations for Le Voyage. . . . Denis, who preferred the term "decoration" to "illustration"—which he felt subjugated the image to its textual equivalent (127)—"simply illustrated" Verlaine's text, whereas he "decorated" Gide's (128), taking such liberties as including a great number of female figures, "in full contradiction" to Gide's male-dominated text (134). For Canovas, the Denis-Gide collaboration represents "a milestone in the history of illustrated books: the moment when a visual artist finally decided to question the subordination of his art to literature in order to follow his own aesthetic and artistic goals" (135). Under scrutiny in Genova's contribution is La Revue Wagnérienne, the brainchild of Edouard Dujardin and "a singularly interesting example of literary journalism" thanks to its blend of methodologies and formats and its balance between theoretical and...


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