James L. Kugel (essay date 1971)
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.)