French Symbolist Poetry Criticism: Symbolist Aesthetics - Essay

Ralph Freedman (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Freedman, Ralph. “Symbol as Terminus: Some Notes on Symbolist Narrative.” Comparative Literature Studies 4, nos. 1-2 (1967): 135-43.

[In the following essay, Freedman studies the methods of narrative structure and deformation employed in the Symbolist prose poem.]

An analysis of the achievement of the French Symbolist Movement exacts both a strong measure of awe and a sharp critique. The grounds for awe are evident: for many reasons, not the least among them the towering figure of Mallarmé, symbolism was able to render the clearest answer to the modern confrontation of self and world, to give the most precise shape to the self-conscious concern with the...

(The entire section is 4706 words.)

Virginia A. La Charité (essay date winter 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: La Charité, Virginia A. “Mallarmé and the Elasticity of the Text.” Sou'wester 6, no. 1 (winter 1978): 1-12.

[In the following essay, La Charité elucidates the ambiguous, intertextual, and elastic structure of Mallarmé's poetry.]

In the poetic universe of Stéphane Mallarmé, the poet has the power to create with words, to go beyond the object by making an absolute out of language. On nearly every page of his prose commentaries on the essence of poetry, Mallarmé expresses commitment to “le Texte … parlant de lui-même” (“the Text speaking by itself,” OC, p. 663).1 And, indeed, in his poetry, the object becomes a word which...

(The entire section is 3909 words.)

John Porter Houston (essay date 1980)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Houston, John Porter. “The Poetry of Consciousness.” In French Symbolism and the Modernist Movement: A Study of Poetic Structures, pp. 1-95. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Houston traces the development of nineteenth-century French poetic aesthetics through its transition from Romanticism to Symbolism.]


From the early nineteenth century on, there are aspects of French aesthetic thought which stand out from contemporary English and German theory and anticipate the characteristic ideas on art of a later period. In fact, the first deeply...

(The entire section is 7565 words.)

Clive Scott (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Scott, Clive. “The Poetry of Symbolism and Decadence.” In Symbolism, Decadence, and the Fin de Siècle: French And European Perspectives, edited by Patrick McGuinness, pp. 57-71. Exeter, England: University of Exeter Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Scott contrasts approaches to theme, versification, and aesthetics in Symbolist and Decadent poetry.]

The purpose of this [essay] is to trace, with a broad brush, the pursuit by Symbolist and Decadent poets—or Symbolist and Decadent aspects of the same poet—of a verse-art adequate to their metaphysical and existential perceptions, and to ask what these developments in verse-art can tell us about...

(The entire section is 7048 words.)

William Franke (essay date 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Franke, William. “The Linguistic Turning of the Symbol: Baudelaire and His French Symbolist Heirs.” In Baudelaire and the Poetics of Modernity, edited by Patricia A. Ward, pp. 15-28. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 2001.

[In the following essay, Franke considers the Symbolist poetics of Baudelaire, exploring the French poet's theories of correspondence between language, symbol, reality, and meaning.]

The process of symbolization begins when one thing is used to stand for something else. A stone thrown into a pit for the purpose of counting whatever sort of objects may be considered a primitive symbol. A link is thereby forged between items...

(The entire section is 6279 words.)