Formal innovations and the idea of music in French poetry, 1850-1900

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This chapter looks at the relationship between music and poetic form in France from 1850 to 1900, an unprecedented period of experimentation which sees the first challenges to classical form quickly give way to a diverse range of innovations, including free verse and prose poetry, the repercussions of which influence C20th poetry in France and beyond. I offer an overview of major and minor figures, with close readings of internationally important poets Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarmé. The ‘poetry as music’ metaphor proves remarkably malleable, applied to a wide range of theories and practices. This, I argue, is because music does not represent a set of formal models for poets to imitate – rather, the interpretative hesitations which instrumental music offers the listener reflect broader anxieties about the meaning and role of art at a time when faith in previously unshakeable certainties such as the divine universe, and absolute aesthetic value, was collapsing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Music and Modern Literature
EditorsRachael Durkin, Peter Dayan, Axel Englund, Katharina Clausius
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
ISBN (Electronic)9780367237288
ISBN (Print)9780367237240, 9781032232874
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022


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