By Jamison

Poetics en passant provides a cross-Channel poetics to redefine the connection among Victorian and sleek poetry. examining Charles Baudelaire with—and against—Christina Rossetti, Jamison is helping readers re-think the connection of nineteenth-century poetry to modernity. A wealthy re-assessment of poetic intersections emerges from this serious juxtaposition and indicates how questions of gender, social and fabric context, position and poetic praxis spur debate and upend long-standing serious assumptions.

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13 Victor Hugo’s preface to Les Orientales, for example, is profoundly revolutionary in its own right in its insistence on total freedom of content for artistic production. Hugo’s rhetoric is directly confrontational, taking the form of a dialogue between revolutionary poet and establishment critic. 12 POETICS E N PA S S A N T and one’s work at odds with artistic success, since the result of such a breach can be neither “joli” (pretty) nor “gracieux” (gracious)— both desired effects for art. He exhorts the poet to treat “des sujets qui nous plaisent et nous agréent” (“agreeable and pleasing subjects”) and disparages the “étranges caprices” (“strange caprices”) favored by the poet.

Her eye encompasses both setting and rising sun— both crossings of a line, the horizon, from night to day and back. What matters, it seems, is the crossing, the very action of it. In contrast with “La Beauté,” the verbs associated with this “Beauté” are all active: “Viens-tu,” “sors-tu,” “Tu contiens,” “Tu répands,” “sors-tu,” “descends-tu,” “tu sèmes,” “tu gouvernes,” “tu marches,” and so on. The majority are verbs of motion; the others, still transitive, “action” verbs of plenitude and power.

10 As I will argue, self-contradiction for Baudelaire is not mere inconsistency, but a creative mode born of an ongoing conflict in Baudelaire’s aesthetic theory and poetic practice. The prose poem emerges from a productive tension between Baudelaire’s verse and critical prose writings, and in these prose poems, theory and practice, verse and prose, critical and poetic modes of writing alternately violate, encroach upon, or embody each other, acting out a process I call an aesthetics of transgression.

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