Frameworks for Mallarmé: The Photo and the Graphic of an Interdisciplinary Aesthetic

Frameworks for Mallarmé: The Photo and the Graphic of an Interdisciplinary Aesthetic

Gayle Zachmann

Language: English

Pages: 226

ISBN: 2:00284354

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Countering the conventional image of the deliberately obscure “ivory-tower poet,” Frameworks for Mallarmé presents Stéphane Mallarmé as a journalist and critic who was actively engaged with the sociocultural and technological shifts of his era. Gayle Zachmann introduces a writer whose aesthetic was profoundly shaped by contemporary innovations in print and visual culture, especially the nascent art of photography. She analyzes the preeminence of the visual in conjunction with Mallarmé’s quest for “scientific” language, and convincingly links the poet’s production to a nineteenth-century understanding of cognition that is articulated in terms of optical perception. The result is a distinctly modern recuperation of the Horatian doctrine of ut pictura poesis in Mallarmé’s poetry and his circumstantial writings.

“…fascinating and beautifully written … Frameworks for Mallarmé is a model of rich interdisciplinary scholarship … it makes a valuable contribution to Mallarmé studies while appealing to general audiences interested in literature, art history, history, media studies, photography, psychology, and nineteenth-century European studies.” — Romanic Review

“…Zachmann takes as her methodological approach an original and productive stance, that of situating Stéphane Mallarmé quite squarely into the cultural context of his time … Zachmann’s study provides today’s students and scholars of Mallarmé an appreciation and analysis of his poetic art from a fresh and inclusive critical point of view.” — French Review

“…Zachmann sets out to reveal how deeply embedded in Mallarmé’s theorizing and practice intermedial thinking was, and to do so by exploring his participation in, and responses to, th

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extreme East—Japan for example)—and look at the sea-pieces of Manet, where the water at the horizon rises to the height of the frame, which alone interrupts it, we feel a new delight at the recovery of a long obliterated truth. (457–58) Mallarmé thus dismisses Renaissance perspective as a function of accepted convention. But where did this dismissal of perspective come from? The Orient? Perhaps, but the photograph is rather conspicuous by its absence. For photography demonstrated to artists that

later works suggests a representational dynamism that was also animating the impressionist movement in art. I next address what I consider some very “offensive” moves on the part of a painstakingly self-conscious artist. In particular, my focus will be on how Mallarmé’s interartistic frameworks respond to a long history of comparison between the pictorial and the verbal arts. “Offensive moves” refers simultaneously to the poet’s aesthetic moves—his speculative F RAME WORKS FOR M ALLARMÉ 141

lucidité. (“Symphonie littéraire,” MOC 2:282) Mallarmé’s work has in many ways been categorized, explained, and in a sense rewritten in the critical process. Like art criticism, which often determines the value of the art object through verbal commentary on “meaning” or exegesis exterior to the works themselves, Mallarmé criticism has by and large been a process of explaining meaning, rather than a study of process. Consequently, the place and relative importance of music, which became a most

“L’expansion et la crise de la production littéraire” (1975). 10. Most artists were themselves from the bourgeoisie. As suggested earlier, there is a conscious effort among artists to promote their personas as “other.” 11. It could be argued that the rise of the poet-critic preceded the nineteenth century, and this would be accurate; however, I am referring to the highly commercialized figure of the poet-critic as it emerged and whose numbers increased dramatically and proportionally with the

motifs égaux par valeur et à les grouper” (209). Mallarmé’s enumeration of themes in “Crise” indicates that he envisions the crisis he declares in terms of discrete yet interrelated “fragments” of a cultural system in flux. While the culmination of this type of observation is actualized in his vision of the poetic act—how it should be “seen” and how its fractionated elements should be arranged—it proves worthwhile to take pause (“prendre arrêt”) to examine how what he explicitly describes as a

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