French Symbolist Poetry Criticism: The Symbolist Lyric - Essay

James L. Kugel (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kugel, James L. “The Prince and His Star.” In The Techniques of Strangeness in Symbolist Poetry, pp. 32-42. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1971.

[In the following excerpt, Kugel explicates Gérard de Nerval's “El Desdichado” (1853), viewing it as an archetypal Symbolist poem.]

The stylistic problem faced by the Symbolist poet was how to make a poem strange. Of course, it is unlikely that he posed the question to himself in such a conscious way: he simply wrote poems, and each poem was itself an answer. A good answer, a satisfying answer, was followed by another attempt along the same lines; a bad answer was rejected and its direction...

(The entire section is 3700 words.)

Henri Peyre (essay date winter 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Peyre, Henri. “Verlaine: Symbolism and Popular Poetry.” Sou'wester 6, no. 1 (winter 1978): 13-26.

[In the following essay, Peyre stresses the popular origins and appeal of Verlaine's poetry.]

The extraordinary prestige which, after almost a hundred years, French Symbolism continues enjoying in half a dozen countries is a puzzling phenomenon for the observer of the literary scene. For, despite a few superficial appearances and occasional (often misleading) allusions in Symbolist manifestoes to Hegel, Schopenhauer, Shelley, Poe or Emerson, no movement was so exclusively French as that which underlay the poetry of Verlaine, Rimbaud, Laforgue, Mallarmé...

(The entire section is 4015 words.)

Enid Rhodes Peschel (essay date winter 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Peschel, Enid Rhodes. “‘To Plunge Into the Bottom of the Abyss’: Rimbaud's Search for the Unknown in The Drunken Boat and Memory.Sou'wester 6, no. 1 (winter 1978): 73-85.

[In the following essay, Peschel probes the conflicting impulses, the sense of despair, and the sense of thwarted desire to discern the “unknown” that is central to Rimbaud's verse.]

Although Rimbaud's poetry was written for the most part between 1869 and 1874, it was published in the 1880s, during the heyday of French symbolism. At that time, Rimbaud's remarkable and revolutionary poetic achievements were not immediately appreciated or understood. “Aside from...

(The entire section is 3784 words.)