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  • Approaches to Teaching Baudelaire's Prose Poems ed. by Cheryl Krueger
  • Sima Godfrey
Cheryl Krueger, ed. Approaches to Teaching Baudelaire's Prose Poems. New York: MLA, 2017. 212 pp.

In her newly edited anthology, Approaches to Teaching Baudelaire's Prose Poems (in the MLA Approaches to Teaching World Literature series), Cheryl Krueger has brought together a distinguished group of scholars to share their critical and pedagogical insight into the collection of Baudelaire's prose poems known alternately as Le Spleen de Paris or Les Petits poèmes en prose. Considering that the companion book, Approaches to Teaching Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil (ed. Laurence Porter), was published in 2000, this new anthology is as welcome as it is overdue, especially given the increased interest in and focus on the prose poems over the past 50 years. As Krueger notes in her excellent introduction: "Perusing the scholarship on Le Spleen de Paris is like tracking the trajectory of literary theory in French studies over recent time." (12) After years of having been read as a literary experiment and curious addendum to the Fleurs du Mal, the heterogeneous and generically ambiguous prose poems have emerged definitively from the shadow of Baudelaire's volume of verse. Marcel Ruff's pronouncement 50 years ago now sounds oddly quaint: "Les Fleurs du Mal n'en restent pas moins l'oeuvre maÎtresse de Baudelaire et leur auteur n'a jamais pensé les surpasser par ses poèmes en prose. Ceux-ci sont sans doute d'intérêt inégal." ("Baudelaire et le poème en prose." Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur, Vol. 77, 1-2, 1967: 116) For all its disruptiveness, its ironies, its inégalité in form and interest, Le Spleen de Paris lies at the core of Baudelaire's poetry for the 21st century. Judging from the course descriptions provided by many of the contributors to this anthology it would seem that the prose poems now share close to equal time on the [End Page 349] syllabus with the lyric poems of the Fleurs du Mal. The teaching approaches presented in this volume are therefore all the more timely.

The diverse questions each contributor raises represent provocative points of entry into the poems. In Part One, "Materials," Krueger summarizes the different contexts in which the prose poems are read and lists the major secondary texts that have defined the approaches in question: historical and social; the prose poem genre in France; teaching literature in foreign language programs, etc. The essays that follow in Part Two demonstrate some of these approaches, highlighting critical readings, interpretive strategies and pedagogical practice. The need for all three is clear as the spasmodic succession of prose poems is by nature challenging-challenging in the first instance because of the contradictory or hybrid nature of the genre. Replacing the word hybridity in her essay, "Worlding Baudelaire: Geography, Genre and Translation," Françoise Lionnet makes the case for using instead the word métissage, a term that allows for the often overlooked intersection of metropolitan and colonized imaginations in Baudelaire's work alongside the slippery overlap of poetry and prose. The latter intersection has been the object of debate about these poems from the start. Whereas one can make the case for poetic repetitions and rhythms in poems like "Enivrez-vous!" (Peter Connor has fun with various translations of this title in his essay, "Translation Studies and the Prose Poems"), it is much harder to pinpoint just where the poetry lies in some of the more narrative poems, like "Laquelle est la vraie?," a text that resembles a story by Poe far more than a lyric poem by Baudelaire or, for that matter, a prose poem by Aloysius Bertrand whom Baudelaire cites as a model. The boundaries and specificities of poetry and prose are directly addressed in the comparison of Baudelaire's verse and prose versions of "L'Invitation au voyage" by Heather Will Allen and Kate Paesant in "A Multiliteracy Approach to Teaching Genre in an Advanced Writing Course" and Larson Powell in "The Rhetoric of Intermediality Teaching Baudelaire's 'L'Invitation au voyage' in a Translation Class." In any anthology it is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1836
Print ISSN
0098-9355
Pages
pp. 349-353
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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