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  • La Musique et la forme dans l'œuvre poétique de Pierre Jean Jouve par Jérémie Berton
  • Michael G. Kelly
La Musique et la forme dans l'œuvre poétique de Pierre Jean Jouve. Par Jérémie Berton. (Bibliothèque des lettres modernes, 50; Critique, 4.) Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017. 423 pp.

Throughout the seemingly inexhaustible processes of self-invention and self-revision that characterized his writing life, music and the idea of music were abiding questions and presences for Pierre Jean Jouve. The poetological value of musical discourse is key to the reformed thinking of the poet's post-1924 vita nuova, but more frequently honoured by a kind of mirroring in the critical reception than by developed analyses—its value to those seeking to maintain open the connections between poetic text, musicality and the subjec-tivation process appearing itself primarily discursive. Equally, the inspiration derived from those composers with whom Jouve openly celebrated his affinity, from Mozart to Alban Berg, is both fundamental to his evolving poetics and largely glossed over in discussions of the subject. Jérémie Berton's study is thus entirely justified not only for the light it promises on this specific domain within the œuvre, but as a potential critical framing for that œuvre as a whole, and in particular as it constitutes an extended speculative and practical engagement with the question of form (both within and between genres). Organized in three parts, the study dramatizes the different kinds of role that music is made to play in Jouve's layered textual practice, and the occasionally difficult connections between these. The opening part, 'Chanter la catastrophe', grants the structuring speculative quality of Jouve's musical interest its full importance—and introduces from the outset what will be the governing practical tension of the study: that between music as a suigeneris art form and music as synonym within the Jouvian corpus for a necessary but elusive theoretical sublime. In this latter guise, the idea of music quickly becomes a recursive presence, galvanizing a range of themes specific to the poet as they tend towards coherent ubiquity. Thus (on the 'Nada' theme developed out of Jouve's engagement with the poems of St John of the Cross): 'Le Nada ouvre la perspective d'une intime communication, de la poésie à la musique, de l'âme à l'âme, parce qu'il repose sur le néant du sens' (p. 55). Berton insists on the linkage between the non-figurative in Jouve's work and the sense of the poetic effort as a quasi-religious one. Placing this effort within 'le chaos primordial de la poésie' (p. 166), 'form' appears as the variable device in which the elements held together come to transcend that chaos: 'Un monde de vérité, qui n'est pas plus voix que musique, traverse l'intelligible, un langage des ondes rend aux choses leur identité et leur accord fondamental' (p. 168). Occurring close to the beginning of the second part, 'La Musique ou l'expérience négative de la poésie', this sentence translates well the work performed by the idea of music in the service of Jouve's aesthetic cohesion, work Berton both accomplishes and on occasions struggles against—notably towards the end of the same part—where the tensions within the critical project and in its relation to the œuvre are quite apparent. A concluding part, on Les Lieux de la rencontre du poétique et du musical', offers a set of illuminating developments on this fundamentally important orientation of Jouve's project as a writer, and confirms this study as a valuable contribution to the renewal of critical interest in Jouve in recent years. [End Page 309]

Michael G. Kelly
University of Limerick


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