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1. the bad glazier - larvatus prodeo
December 23rd, 2004
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1. the bad glazier
    Il n’existe que trois êtres respectables :
    Le prêtre, le guerrier, le poète. Savoir, tuer et créer.
    Les autres hommes sont taillables et corvéables, faits pour l’écurie, c’est-à-dire pour exercer ce qu’on appelle des professions.
    — Charles Baudelaire, Mon cœur mis à nu
    There exist but three respectable beings:
    The priest, the warrior, the poet. To know, to kill, to create.
    The rest of men belong to the fatigue party, made for the stables, in other words for the practice of that, which is called professions.
    — Charles Baudelaire, My heart laid bare[0]
It is the 26th of August, 1862. Charles-Pierre Baudelaire is forty-one years old. After losing his father thirty-five years earlier, the bereft son wasted no time in squandering most of his patrimony at the earliest opportunity. Yet to this day, he commemorates the late Joseph-François Baudelaire, philosopher and theologian educated at the University of Paris, a defrocked abbot and inflexible republican, in a reliquary transported through his frequently changes of Parisian domicile. The jealous stepson of the dashing general Aupick, Baudelaire takes solace in the former commander of the Ecole polytechnique and ambassador to Madrid and Constantinople having passed away five years earlier, bequeathing to the full-fledged orphan the undivided attention of the widowed Mme. Aupick. For the past two decades this grown-up has been subsisting in the state of legal minority, supervised by a conseil judiciaire administered by the notary Narcisse Ancelle. His livelihood depends on cadging handouts from his beloved mother to supplement the allowance from the remainder of his inheritance and the proceeds from his translations of Edgar Allan Poe and occasional journalism. For the past fifteen years he has cultivated notoriety as the poet of Les Fleurs du mal, with six of its blossoms judicially condemned and censored for obscenity. About twenty months earlier he has published its expanded and improved second edition, meant to support his fervid, failed candidacy for the Académie française. An erstwhile defender of the revolutionary barricades, he is now become an adept of pure art, a dedicated dandy, and an acute opium addict. His political fervor has transmuted into self-flagellation in the midst of a Jansenist crise de foi.[1]

Gustave Courbet, fragment comprising a portrait of Charles Baudelaire
Today, he is publishing nine “little prose poems” intended as an episodic counterpart to his earlier book of classically versified poetry, in the Parisian newspaper La Presse. The last among them recalls and responds to an earlier venture into his novel genre, the sententious and sentimental “Chanson du vitrier”, penned by his publisher and dedicatee Arsène Houssaye.


        Le Mauvais vitrier         The Bad Glazier
¶1     Il y a des natures purement contemplatives et tout à fait impropres à l’action, qui cependant, sous une impulsion mystérieuse et inconnue, agissent quelquefois avec une rapidité dont elles se seraient crues elles-mêmes incapables.     There are certain natures, purely contemplative and altogether unfit for action, which nonetheless, impelled by a mysterious and unknown motive, act at times with rapidity of which they would have believed themselves incapable.
¶2     Tel qui, craignant de trouver chez son concierge une nouvelle chagrinante, rôde lâchement une heure devant sa porte sans oser rentrer, tel qui garde quinze jours une lettre sans la décacheter, ou ne se résigne qu’au bout de six mois à opérer une démarche nécessaire depuis un an, se sentent quelquefois brusquement précipités vers l’action par une force irrésistible, comme la flèche d’un arc. Le moraliste et le médecin, qui prétendent tout savoir, ne peuvent pas expliquer d’où vient si subitement une si folle énergie à ces âmes paresseuses et voluptueuses, et comment, incapables d’accomplir les choses les plus simples et les plus nécessaires, elles trouvent à une certaine minute un courage de luxe pour exécuter les actes les plus absurdes et souvent même les plus dangereux.     One who, dreading to find his concierge bearing distressing news, cravenly prowls for an hour around his door, not daring to enter; one who keeps a letter for a fortnight without unsealing it; one who only makes up his mind at the end of six months to undertake what needed doing for a year; they feel themselves at times abruptly hurled into action by an irresistible force, as an arrow out of a bow. The moralist and the physician, who pretend to know it all, cannot explain whence comes so swiftly such mad energy to these indolent and voluptuous souls; nor how, unable to accomplish the simplest and most necessary tasks, they discover at a given moment a lavish courage for accomplishing acts of the utmost absurdity and often even of the greatest danger.
¶3     Un de mes amis, le plus inoffensif rêveur qui ait existé, a mis une fois le feu à une forêt pour voir, disait-il, si le feu prenait avec autant de facilité qu’on l’affirme généralement. Dix fois de suite, l’expérience manqua; mais, à la onzième, elle réussit beaucoup trop bien.     One of my friends, the most innocuous dreamer that ever lived, once set fire to a forest to see, he explained, whether a forest fire spread as easily as people said. Ten times in a row the experiment failed; but on the eleventh attempt it succeeded all too well.
¶4     Un autre allumera un cigare à côté d’un tonneau de poudre, pour voir, pour savoir, pour tenter la destinée, pour se contraindre lui-même à faire preuve d’énergie, pour faire le joueur, pour connaître les plaisirs de l’anxiété, pour rien, par caprice, par désœuvrement.     Another will light a cigar beside a keg of gunpowder, to see, to know, to tempt the fate, to compel himself to evince energy, to play the gambler, to taste the pleasures of anxiety, to no end at all, through whimsy, through idleness.
¶5     C’est une espèce d’énergie qui jaillit de l’ennui et de la rêverie; et ceux en qui elle se manifeste si opinément sont, en général, comme je l’ai dit, les plus indolents et les plus rêveurs des êtres.     It is the sort of energy that surges from boredom and daydreams; and those in whom it displays itself so unexpectedly are, in general, as I have said, the laziest and the dreamiest of men.
¶6     Un autre, timide à ce point qu’il lui faut rassembler toute sa pauvre volonté pour entrer dans un café ou passer devant le bureau d’un théâtre, où les contrôleurs lui paressent investis de la majesté de Minos, d’Eaque et de Rhadamante, sautera brusquement au cou d’un vieillard qui passe à côté de lui et l’embrassera avec enthousiasme devant la foule étonnée.     Another one, bashful to the point of lowering his eyes before men gazing at him, to the point of having to muster all his paltry courage to enter a café or pass the box office of a theatre, to approach the ticket takers who seem to him invested with all the majesty of Minos, Iacchus, and Radamanthus, will suddenly throw his arms around an elderly passerby and kiss him enthusiastically before the astonished crowd.
¶7     Pourquoi? Parce que… parce que cette physionomie lui était irrésistiblement sympathique? Peut-être; mais il est plus légitime de supposer que lui-même il ne sait pas pourquoi.     Why? Because… because that countenance appealed to him irresistibly? Perhaps; but it would be nearer the truth to suppose that he himself has no idea why.
¶8     J’ai été plus d’une fois victime de ces crises et de ces élans, qui nous autorisent à croire que des Démons se glissent en nous et nous font accomplir, à notre insu, leurs plus absurdes volontés.     I, too, have fallen more than once victim of these crises and these transports, which justify our belief that malicious Demons glide within us and force us, unbeknownst to ourselves, to carry out their most absurd wishes.
¶9     Un matin je m’étais levé maussade, triste, fatigué d’oisiveté, et poussé, me semblait-il, à faire quelque chose de grand, une action d’éclat; et j’ouvris la fenêtre, hélas!     One morning I got up sullen, sad, tired of idleness, and seemingly compelled to achieve something extraordinary, a glorious strike; and I opened the window, alas!
¶10     (Observez, je vous prie, que l’esprit de mystification qui, chez quelques personnes, n’est pas le résultat d’un travail ou d’une combinaison, mais d’une inspiration fortuite, participe beaucoup, ne fût-ce que par l’ardeur du désir, de cette humeur, hystérique selon les médecins, satanique selon ceux qui pensent un peu mieux que les médecins, qui nous pousse sans résistance vers une foule d’actions dangereuses ou inconvenantes.)     (I beg of you to take note that the spirit of mystification, which in some men ensues neither from an effort nor from scheming, but from an accidental inspiration, is akin, if only through the intensity of desire, to that humor, hysterical according to the physicians, satanic according to those who think a little deeper than the physicians, which drives us toward a multitude of dangerous or improper actions.)
¶11     La première personne que j’aperçus dans la rue, ce fut un vitrier dont le cri perçant, discordant, monta jusqu’à moi à travers la lourde et sale atmosphère parisienne. Il me serait d’ailleurs impossible de dire pourquoi je fus pris à l’égard de ce pauvre homme d’une haine aussi soudaine que despotique.     The first person that I noticed in the street was a glazier whose piercing, strident cry came up to me through the heavy and foul Parisian air. It would in any event be impossible for me to say why I was seized by an equally abrupt and overwhelming hatred for this poor man.
¶12     « — Hé! Hé! » et je lui criai de monter. Cependant je réfléchissais, non sans quelque gaieté, que, la chambre étant au sixième étage et l’escalier fort étroit, l’homme devait éprouver quelque peine à opérer son ascension et accrocher en maint endroit les angles de sa fragile marchandise.     “— Hey! Hey!” and I shouted for him to come up. Meanwhile I reflected, not without some hilarity, that my room was up six narrow flights of stairs, and that the man must suffer some inconvenience in ascending while constantly catching the edges of his fragile wares.
¶13     Enfin il parut: j’examinai curieusement toutes ses vitres, et je lui dis : « — Comment? vous n’avez pas de verres de couleur? des verres roses, rouges, bleus, des vitres magiques, des vitres de paradis? Impudent que vous êtes! vous osez vous promener dans des quartiers pauvres, et vous n’avez pas même de vitres qui fassent voir la vie en beau! » Et je le poussai vivement dans l’escalier, où il trébucha en grognant.     Finally he appeared; I carefully examined all his windowpanes, and exclaimed: “— What! You have no colored glasses? no pinks, no reds, no blues? No magic glasses, no glasses of paradise? Shameless wretch! you dare to strut through slums without a single glass to make life beautiful!” And I pushed him smartly toward the stairs, whereupon he stumbled and grumbled.
¶14     Je m’approchai du balcon et je me saisis d’un petit pot de fleurs, et quand l’homme reparut au débouché de la porte, je laissai tomber perpendiculairement mon engin de guerre sur le rebord postérieur de ses crochets; et le choc le renversant, il acheva de briser sous son dos toute sa pauvre fortune ambulatoire qui rendit le bruit éclatant d’un palais de cristal crevé par la foudre.     I stepped towards the balcony and picked up a little flower pot, and when the man appeared in the doorway, I let my fearsome missile fall down perpendicularly upon the rear edge of his pack; and as the shock knocked him over, he succeeded in breaking beneath his back his entire paltry movable treasure with the striking clamor of a crystal palace shattered by lightning.

The Great Crystal Palace
¶15     Et, ivre de ma folie, je lui criai furieusement : « La vie en beau! la vie en beau! »     And, intoxicated with my madness, I shouted at him furiously: “Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!”
¶16     Ces plaisanteries nerveuses ne sont pas sans péril, et on peut souvent les payer cher. Mais qu’importe l’éternité de la damnation à qui a trouvé dans une seconde l’infini de la jouissance?[2]     These nervous pranks are not without danger, and one often has to pay for them dearly. But what matters an eternity of damnation to one who has found an infinity of joy in a single second?


William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dante et Virgile en enfer (Dante and Virgil in Hell), 1850, oil on canvas, 281x225 cm

    We pause to absorb the shock. The text affronts its readers on every level. In its intended capacity as a pendant to Les Fleurs du mal, the prose poem confronts its humble glazier with the destructive force of officially certified obscenity embodied in the morally and physically disproportional auxesis of his fearful missile, a little flowerpot (¶14). Through recalling the real Crystal Palace, an enormous receptacle of international arts and crafts designed and erected in Hyde Park by Sir Joseph Paxton with the Royal Commission and building contractors Fox & Henderson, officially opened by Her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria on 1st May 1851 as the Exhibition of Industry of All Nations, and its continental sequel in the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris with its Palais des Beaux-Arts constructed in metal and glass, it turns the ambling entrepreneurial victim of its violence into a lowly proxy for the proudest material and cultural feats of the bourgeois century.[3] Taken as a reply to Houssaye, Le mauvais vitrier brutally supplants the fellow-feeling with its sudden and inexplicable hatred (¶11), a sentiment generally unacknowledged in polite society. Instead of offering to his moderately republican readers a well-behaved specimen of the “literature of good sentiments”, Baudelaire revels in provocation complementary to that, which at the peak of his career had exercised the Parisian journalists and magistrates to the point of earning the official condemnation of his poems by the Imperial tribunal.
    Les Fleurs du mal gave public offense with its ostensible blasphemy and unflinching eroticism. On this occasion, the provocation is of a violent nature. What shocked the Parisian bourgeois in 1857, was a literary representation of female sexuality, the likes of which had been accepted in the plastic arts for many decades. By contrast, the prose poems, bereft of prurience, scandalize by their deliberate travesty of moral sentiment, and nowhere more so than in the bohemian tormentor of the hapless glazier, with his ostensible “negative transcendence toward baseness and inhumanity.”[4] And yet, in writing to the eminent critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve four years later, Baudelaire will describe his prose poems as a virtual promenade of a Parisian flâneur, hoping to display a new Joseph Delorme hanging his rhapsodic thought upon each accident of his dawdling and drawing a disagreeable moral from each of its objects.[5] The qualification of this moral challenges us in several ways, from the logical to the physiological, cutting across the ethical and the aesthetic.
    The poem divides into three parts according to the simplest rules of classical rhetoric.[6] Following a pithy announcement (¶1) of a mysterious and unknown impulse that precipitates sudden action within thitherto purely contemplative beings, its exordium recounts four chreai, anecdotes illustrating a singular yet universal aspect of human nature. This trait is manifested in certain characters in the opposition between their habitual dreamy indolence and inexplicable rapid action. The energy that provokes a violent action from a thitherto peaceful and contemplative disposition of these bohemian dreamers, spouts from the ennui and the daydream (¶5). Paradoxically, the effect that is initially described as entirely compulsive, will in conclusion give rise to full responsibility (¶16).
    According to the theory of pure poetry originated by Edgar Allan Poe and championed by Charles Baudelaire, the Poetry of words is the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. “Its sole arbiter is Taste. With the Intellect or with the Conscience, it has only collateral relations. Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either with Duty or with Truth.”[7] It follows that the phenomenon seemingly provoked by a mysterious and unknown force inexplicable either by the Intellect’s proxy, le médecin, or by the acolyte of Conscience, le moraliste, (¶2) is a quintessentially Poetic subject. Such inexplicable spontaneity of body and mind is a recurring concern. Writing to Baudelaire in 1860, Gustave Flaubert had objected to the encroachment of mystical appeals to l’Esprit du Mal in Les Paradis artificiels, a rhapsodic and cautionary treatise juxtaposing the poet’s own encomium to hashish and an enhanced translation of Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.[8]

Thomas De Quincey
Aside from that leaven of Catholicism, the book was soundly grounded in empirical observation. In responding, the poet averred an enduring obsession with being unable to account for certain sudden actions or thoughts without postulating an intervention by a malicious external force. Nonetheless, he reserved the right to change his mind or to contradict himself. The pleasure of self-contradiction is one of the cornerstones of Baudelairian aesthetics. It permeates the present paradox of sudden and thoughtless action without agency, of explicitly accepting responsibility while implicitly denying it. The phenomena recounted in the poem, having been caused by an external force, owe nothing to one’s proper volition, and thus cannot qualify as actions. This failure is not due to their want of origin in conscious deliberation. This origin is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition of agency. The sole determining condition of agency is freedom of choice. If one were moving as if precipitated by an irresistible external force, as an arrow by a bow (¶2), his motion would be lacking in the element of all choice. This lack would vitiate agency and responsibility alike. In so baffling the intellect, the denial of causality compounds the countermanding of middle-class morality. Contrariwise, the poem ends with a final acceptance of moral responsibility (¶16). This ending smartly belies the initial supposition of an irresistible, malicious external force.[9]
    The possessive pronoun in un de mes amis (¶3) anticipated the narrator’s eventual emergence and situation within the setting of his own tale. At first blush, his anecdotal examples of sudden action might be construed as a flight, be it from reality as such, or from others, as any rebellion might be so denounced. However, neither l’arsoniste-flambeur who starts a forest fire (¶4), nor l’arsoniste-fumeur who smokes a cigar next to a keg of gunpowder (¶4), nor yet the milquetoast who gloms onto a senescent passerby (¶6-¶7), evinces the slightest gesture of fleeing. On the contrary, they stay — sticking around to jest with the world, wagering with their own lives, playing out their mystifications (¶10), these jeux fumistes sinon funestes. They play to amuse themselves with public danger, to transgress the bonds of their timidity, or to seek distraction in their own anxiety. Their ostensible escapism only appears as such from the standpoint beholden to the bonds of bourgeois banality. A more generous perspective reveals it as a refusal, or more radically, an indifference, a trait equally unacceptable for the doctrinary moralizer and the positivist medico.
    In the discursive narratio (¶8-¶15) of the poem, the impersonal mask of the narrator slips. He confesses his own propensity to suffer from the inexplicable outbursts. He then recounts a striking instance of gratuitous destruction (¶8). The sullen idleness of his character fulfills his friends’ formerly recounted disqualifications for their brazen irruptions (¶9). This fulfillment forebodes explosive destruction. Nevertheless, his tale is thrown into immediate confusion by relating the probable causes of these episodes to bodily or moral disorders. This relation to the spontaneous spirit of mystification alerts the reader to the likelihood of the prose poem befuddling his intellect and twitting his sensibilities (¶10). The narrator’s victim fails to register any narrated attribute more human than inarticulate noises (¶11,¶13). This insubstantiality further suggests standing for something more abstract than a working-class stiff who annoys a callous nincompoop by plying his paltry wares in his proximity. And as the narrator avers an intoxication with his madness (¶15), he appears to reinstate the selfsame medical authority whose jurisdiction over his predicament he derided earlier (¶2,¶10).
    Returning to the moralizing tone of the preamble, the prose poem concludes with its didactic propositio: “These nervous jests are not without danger, and one often can pay for them dearly. But what matters the eternity of damnation to him who has found in a second the infinity of delight?” (¶16) The threat of the eternity of damnation reinstates the religious authority. Likewise, the invocation of madness rehabilitates the medico. But the moral case purports to be open and shut. The final question, an epitrope that turns the task of proving the disagreeable moral of the poem over to its readers, poses the problem no sooner than it dismisses the search for an answer with a smug flourish. How then are we to determine whether the poem glorifies random violence as the wellspring of explosive creative energy, or repudiates the artificial means of embellishing everyday life; whether it anticipates and advances the case of l’acte gratuit, or twits the reader with its mystification?[10] Perhaps the most puzzling lacuna is in the equilibrium postulated by the ending: if the Catholic sources of the eternity of damnation can be readily identified, the grounds of the countervailing infinity of delight are uncertain. And so the mystery remains.[11]

Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet, L’Atelier du peintre, allégorie réelle déterminant une phase de sept années de ma vie artistique (The Painter’s Studio, a Real Allegory that Determines a Seven Year Phase of my Artistic Life), 1855, oil on canvas, 598x361 cm, Musée d’Orsay



Footnotes:

[0] Mon cœur mis à nu XIII.22, in Charles Baudelaire, Œuvres complètes (OC), tomes I et II, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Paris: Gallimard : Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1975-1976, Vol. I, p. 684. All translations are by MZ, unless noted otherwise.

[1] The definitive biography of Charles Baudelaire is Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler, Baudelaire, Julliard, 1987. Raymond Poggenburg has collated a detailed chronology available online and in print, as Charles Baudelaire : Une Micro-Histoire, Vanderbilt University Press, 1987.

[2] OC I, pp. 285-287. Other than two spelling corrections in the posthumous publications, no variants of this poem are known. Notable interpretations of this prose poem are due to Arnaldo Pizzorusso, “Le Mauvais Vitrier; ou, L’Impulsion inconnue”, in Etudes baudelairiennes, 8, Neuchâtel: La Baconnière, 1976, pp. 147-171; Jérôme Thélot, Baudelaire : Violence et poésie, Paris: Gallimard, 1993, pp. 100-111; and Virginia E. Swain, Grotesque Figures: Baudelaire, Rousseau, and the Aesthetics of Modernity, The Johns Hopkins University, 2004, pp. 95-108.

[3] See Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display, Yale University Press, 1999. On the French context, see Whitney Walton, France at the Crystal Palace: Bourgeois Taste and Artisan Manufacture in the Nineteenth Century, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Animadversions against the Crystal Palace span from aesthetic criticism to conservative politics. Thus John Ruskin:

In my old studies of architecture I always used to have great regard to the apse of a cathedral, and whatever else failed, looked always to the close of the great aisled vista as the principle joy of one’s heart. […] So one has a natural tendency to look also to the apse of this cathedral of modern faith to see the symbol of it, as one used to look to see the conchs of the Cathedral of Pisa for the face of Christ, or to the apse of Torcellor for the figure of the Madonna. Well, do you recollect what occupied the place of these — in the apse of the Crystal Palace? The head of a Pantomime clown, some twelve feet broad, with a mouth opening from ear to ear, opening and shutting by machinery, its eyes squinting alternately, and collapsing by machinery, its humour in general provided for by machinery, with the recognised utterance of English Wisdom inscribed above — “Here we are again.” But the striking thing of all was that, though as I said the humour of the thing could not but have been perfect — being provided for by machinery — nobody laughed at it.
Modern Art, 25, in The Complete Works of John Ruskin, edited by Edward Tyas Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, London: George Allen, Volume XIX, 1905, pp. 216-217
Whereas Thomas Carlyle besmirched Paxton’s magnum opus as “a big glass soap bubble, presided oven by Prince Albert and the general assembly of prurient windbags out of all countries” (Carlyle to Neuberg, Chelsea, 25th July, 1851, in Macmillan’s Magazine, Vol. I, May 1884 to October 1884, p. 286). Even more trenchantly, another notable visitor to the exhibition site, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, imagined his Underground Man clandestinely flipping the finger at its celebration of material progress:
Вы верите в хрустальное здание, навеки нерушимое, то есть в такое, которому нельзя будет ни языка украдкой выставить, ни кукиша в кармане показать. Hу, а я, может быть, потому-то и боюсь этого здания, что оно хрустальное и навеки нерушимое и что нельзя будет даже и украдкой языка ему выставить.
— Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский, Записки из подполья, Часть I, X
You believe in a crystal palace, forever indestructible — that is, such that no one might stick out his tongue at it or flip it the finger on the sly. As for me, perhaps that is just why I fear this edifice, because it is made of crystal and forever indestructible and no one might stick out his tongue at it even on the sly.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground, Part I, X
See Auerbach, op. cit., p. 207; Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, New York: Penguin Press, 2004, pp. 80-81, 98-99; Jacques Catteau, “Du palais de cristal à l’âge d’or ou les avatars de l’utopie”, in Jacques Catteau (editor), Dostoïevski, Cahiers de l’Herne, 24, Paris, 1973, pp. 176-195; Jacques Catteau, Dostoyevsky and the Process of Literary Creation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 20, 206-209.

[4] See Roger Shattuck, “When Evil Is ‘Cool’”, The Atlantic Monthly, 1 (January), 1999; reprinted as “Narrating Evil: Great Faults and ‘Splendidly Wicked People’” in Jennifer Geddes (editor), Evil After Postmodernism: Histories, Narratives and Ethics, Routledge, 2001, p. 48. Shattuck discusses the tale of the bad glazier alongside with the examples of Ethan Brand by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the renegade of Avignon in Le neveu de Rameau by Denis Diderot. Taking his cue from the discovery of greatness in evil and of evil, which he attribites to Pascal and La Rochefoucauld, Shattuck argues against the allegedly ongoing intellectual transformation of sin and evil into a positive term, transgression. He concludes by exhorting his reader: “Let us beware of applying our intellects to condoning evil or to making ourselves into ‘a splendidly wicked’ people. Twice this century has spawned overwhelming state terrorism — in communism and in fascism. We cannot afford such blindness to history and such naiveté as to embrace the morality of the cool.”

[5] « Enfin, j’ai l’espoir de pouvoir monter, un de ces jours, un nouveau Joseph Delorme accrochant sa pensée rapsodique à chaque accident de sa flânerie et tirant de chaque objet une morale désagréable. » Letter to Sainte-Beuve dated 15 January 1866, in Charles Baudelaire, Correspondance (C), tomes I et II, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, avec la collaboration de Jean Ziegler, Paris : Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1973-1974, Vol. II, p. 583.

[6] References on rhetoric: TBA.

[7]The Poetic Principle”, Home Journal, 31 August 1850, reprinted in Edgar Allan Poe, Essays and Reviews (E&R), New York: The Library of America, 1984, p. 78. Concerning the influence of Poe on Baudelaire and other french writers, see Patrick Francis Quinn, The French Face of Edgar Poe, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale & Edwardsville, 1954.

[8] OC I, pp. 377-517; cf. Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance, tomes I-IV, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Jean Bruneau et Yvan Leclerc, Paris : Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1973-1998, letter to Baudelaire of 18 or 25 June 1860, Vol. III, p. 93.

[9] Pace Harry Frankfurt, “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility”, Journal of Philosophy 66 (1969), pp. 829-839, reprinted in The Importance of What We Care About, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 1-10. This issue will be taken up in the following chapters.

[10] André Gide posed the principle of l’acte gratuit, a crime without a motive, in his 1914 sotie, Les Caves du Vatican. Intended as a flippant treatment of a putatively serious idea, it was informed by his service as a juror the Assizes of Rouen and described in the terms of jeu, risque, dépense, and luxe, under evident influence of Le mauvais vitrier. See André Gide, Romans ; introduction par Maurice Nadeau ; notices et bibliographie par Yvonne Davet et Jean-Jacques Thierry ; Paris : Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1958, pp. 824-837; Patrick Pollard, André Gide: The Homosexual Moralist, Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 131-137, 365-372. The interpretation of Baudelaire bursting out with extravagant paradoxes and laborious mystifications borne out of disdain for vulgarity is due to the purveyor of théorie de la décadence, Paul Bourget: « En même temps, son intense dédain du vulgaire éclate en paradoxes outranciers, en mystifications laborieuses. » Paul Bourget, Essais de psychologie contemporaine, tome premier, Paris, Plon, 1924, pp. 19-26.

[11] Here ends the first chapter of the second part of the book previously entitled Representation and Modernity, begun in 1986 and submitted by the author and accepted by Hilary Putnam and William Mills Todd III, in partial satisfaction of 1993 degree requirements at Harvard University. Some of the subsequent chapters have been posted elsewhere in this journal. Comments, questions, suggestions, and requests shall be gratefully considered and promptly answered.



Crossposted to [info]larvatus, [info]_lutetia, [info]about_poetry, [info]againstnature, [info]history, [info]les_nerfs, [info]old_french_lit, and [info]philosophy.

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From:andthro_femme
Date:May 6th, 2006 09:56 pm (UTC)
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Salve!,

I really enjoyed reading through your text. (You should take a closer look at Les Paradis Artificieles); I´ve always found that it is spacially "supercharged" in a philosophical sense; noone seems to dedicate more attention to this piece of charles tho.
I´d apperciate if you´d post your work (specially thosye about baudelaire and mallarmé) at les_nerfs, I think it could be at some individuals interest there.

Thank You


(...I´ll read your text(s) more accurately as soon as I can take some more time, so that I can take a stand to this or that)
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From:larvatus
Date:May 6th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
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Thanks very much for your kind words. I am certainly taking a closer look at Les paradis artificiels. In the 1993 thesis that serves as the basis of this work, I contented myself with using Thomas de Quincey’s notion of the palimpsest of memory, as the means for explaining the notion of infinity exploited in the final question (ἐρώτημα) that is commonly taken as an emblem of resistance to interpretative closure. To the contrary, I take it as a sound and adequate Cartesian response to the argument of Pascal’s Wager. As many a respondent to Romanticism, Baudelaire was a clandestine rationalist. I shall post the results both here and in your fine community, as soon as I can process the relevant literature, both recently published (The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire) and previously overlooked (G.T. Clapton, Baudelaire et De Quincey). This matter really calls for writing grants and writer’s assistants. Got any leads?
From:andthro_femme
Date:May 13th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
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pardon me, I was busy for a while ;)

as for the older research the younger authors consider the decadents as not only a result of the romantic world-view, but also as directly dependent form it... I´d say, as every modernist movement, the decedents may be in fact a result of romantic individualist attitude, even in an excessively overexcited way, following totally contrary "values", but they´re still not dependent from it´s intent a farer sense.

--what exactly do you mean when you call charles a "clandestine rationalist"? this is an unknown term to me. makes me curious, cause from my point of view rationalism/naturalism is def. what most decadent made mental rebellion against.

(& please do post your disquitions on decadent themes at les_nerfs in the future, simply post the text twice to both sites when updating your journal) ;)
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From:larvatus
Date:May 15th, 2006 08:10 am (UTC)
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Thanks again for your kind attention to my text. I am not terribly concerned about falling in lockstep with other authors, be they younger or older. On the other hand, I am always happy to attend to good counsel.
    First off, I should qualify any attribution of -isms. Paul Valéry put it best:
Il est impossible de penser ― sérieusement ― avec des mots comme Classicisme, Romantisme, Humanisme, Réalisme…
On ne s’enivre ni se désaltère avec des étiquettes de bouteilles.
I think the same goes for attributions of decadence. As for Baudelaire in his relations with nature, he follows Delacroix in regarding her as only a dictionary, but by the same token, no less than a dictionary. Thus also Pascal: there are perfections in nature to show that she is the image of God, and imperfections to show that she is no more than his image (Pensées §934/580 Lafuma/Brunschvicg). Further, Romantic poetry has been infected with the desire to represent itself as philosophy at least since Shelley and Lamartine translated and versified Socratic dialogues. Nevertheless, it failed to embody philosophical concepts and arguments until Coleridge and Vigny made short work of Kantian aesthetics and Stoic ethics. Baudelaire inherited these concerns from his elders, through direct and personal connections with Vigny and access to Cambridge neo-Platonists by way of Poe. His concern with Pascal’s Wager and his practice of its prescriptions is witnessed in the journals, under the heading of Hygiène. Needless to say, this game-theoretic argument is practically the sole vestige of Cartesianism in Pascal’s body of writings. As answered by Baudelaire in ¶16 of Le mauvais vitrier, it is a matter of fighting fire with fire. Because the availability of memory is a prerequisite for the experience of punishment, the unrepentant transgressor needs must have recourse to moral satisfaction in reflection on whatever solace he ever took in his crimes. In addition to the aforementioned palimpsest, the key text here is the journal note on Satan, in the manner of Milton, as the most perfect type of virile Beauty. I have discussed some of these issues elsewhere.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 20th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)

Ce puits

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tres intiresno, merci
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