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The symbolist movement in literature was an important influence on modern painting. The major symbolist painters were Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Puvis de Chavannes. Find art books with reproductions of symbolist paintings by these or other artists. Choose one symbolist painter and provide a brief biography of him or her, focusing on the period during which he produced the majority of his symbolist works. Discuss one painting by the artist, describing the painting in your own words. In what ways does this painting express the ideals of the symbolist movement?

Read Mallarmé’s The Afternoon of a Faun, then find and listen to a recording of Debussy’s musical adaptation Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Compare and contrast the poem to the prelude. In what ways are the ideals of the symbolist movement expressed through Debussy’s musical composition? How are the ideals of Symbolism expressed differently in the different mediums of poetry and music?

Maeterlinck was the foremost author of symbolist drama. Read his play Pelleas and Melisande. With a group of students, perform one scene from the play, then discuss as a group the scene you have performed. Describe the symbolist elements and themes of the scene. In what ways does your performance of the scene enhance your understanding of the play?

Although the symbolist writers did not invent the prose poetry form, a number of them did develop the prose poem as a modern form of expression. For this assignment, choose one of the following options: a) Choose three prose poems from either Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen or Rimbaud’s Illuminations, and write an essay describing the major theme or themes, the poet’s use of language, and the symbolist elements of the poem; or, b) Look through published volumes of prose poetry to get a sense of the form, then write five to ten of your own original prose poems.

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