French Symbolist Poetry Criticism: History And Influence - Essay

Kenneth Cornell (essay date 1951)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cornell, Kenneth. “Triumph and Schism, 1891.” In The Symbolist Movement, pp. 101-18. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1951.

[In the following essay, Cornell details the literary events of 1891, a pinnacle year for French Symbolist verse.]

The first months of 1891, a year extremely rich in the annals of symbolism, are largely concerned with the circumstances surrounding the publication of Le Pèlerin passionné. Moréas had, it would seem, carefully prepared for much publicity at the appearance of his volume. In late December, 1890, just as the book was coming off Vanier's presses, Anatole France wrote a long article on Moréas for Le...

(The entire section is 8619 words.)

René Wellek (essay date 1970)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wellek, René. “The Term and Concept of Symbolism in Literary History.” In Discriminations: Further Concepts of Criticism, pp. 92-121. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1970.

[In the following essay, Wellek seeks to define Symbolism as a movement and describes its influence on European literature.]

The term and concept of symbolism (and symbol) is so vast a topic that it cannot even be sketched within the limits of this paper. The word goes back to ancient Greece and, there, had a complex history which has not, I suspect, been traced adequately in the only history of the term, Max Schlesinger's Geschichte des Symbols, published in...

(The entire section is 9467 words.)

Wallace Fowlie (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fowlie, Wallace. “The Background of Symbolism: From Romanticism to Art for Art's Sake,” and “The Legacy of Symbolism.” In Poem & Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism, pp. 1-14, 109-19. University Park, Penn.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Fowlie examines the relationship between Parnassian l'art pour l'art, literary Decadence, and Symbolist poetry, then summarizes the enduring influence of French Symbolist verse.]


Romanticism has always been looked upon as a literary revolution. It was the first in...

(The entire section is 9818 words.)

Laurence M. Porter (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Porter, Laurence M. “The Crisis of French Symbolism.” In The Crisis of French Symbolism, pp. 1-26. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Porter outlines the progress of nineteenth-century French poetry from Neoclassicism to Romanticism and Symbolism.]

The history of the nineteenth-century French lyric needs to be redefined. The very discredit into which diachronic approaches have fallen during the eras of Structuralism and Poststructuralism allows the assumptions that have informed these approaches to survive unchallenged in the collective preconscious of literary critics. We may consider literary history no longer worthy...

(The entire section is 5030 words.)

Richard Shryock (essay date September 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shryock, Richard. “Anarchism at the Dawn of the Symbolist Movement.” French Forum 25, no. 3 (September 2000): 291-307.

[In the following essay, Shryock investigates links between the Symbolist poets and late nineteenth-century revolutionary politics.]

“Le Symbolisme … fut un mouvement libertaire en littérature” wrote Stuart Merrill in 1901.1 For Merrill, whose own ties to French anarchism date from at least 1887, “libertaire” was a synonym of “anarchist.” The Symbolists' involvement with anarchism has been recognized and studied by several critics.2 However, one problem faced by writers of the Symbolist movement was...

(The entire section is 6890 words.)