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2006, June 30; 19:05 ::: If on a winter's night a traveler (1979) - Italo Calvino

In search of postmodern novels

If on a winter's night a traveler (1979) - Italo Calvino [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

If on a winter's night a traveler (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore) is a novel published in 1979 by Italo Calvino.

This book is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. The first chapter and every odd numbered chapter are in second person, and tell you (the reader) what you are doing to get ready to read the next chapter in the book. The even numbered chapters are all single chapters from whichever book the reader is trying to read.

It is a rather complex post-modern novel about reading novels. The book begins with a preface on the art and nature of reading, and is subsequently divided into twenty-two passages. The odd-numbered passages, and the final passage, are narrated in the second person. That is, they concern events purportedly happening to the novel's reader. (Some contain further discussions about whether the narrated, and male, "you" is the same as the "you" that is actually reading.) These chapters concern the reader's adventures in reading Italo Calvino's novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Eventually the reader meets a woman, who is also addressed in her own chapter, separately, also in the second person.


The second-person narrative passages develop into a fairly cohesive novel that puts its two protagonists on the track of an international book-fraud conspiracy, a mischievous translator, a reclusive novelist, a collapsing publishing house, and several repressive governments.

The title If on a winter's night a traveler is a good indicator of this novel which is reminiscent of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. The book commences on a hypothesis of novelistic elements ("If...") on a when, a someone...would do what? According to this book, the entire novel, even its plot, is an open trajectory where even the author himself questions his motives of the writing process. This theme — a writer's objectivity — is also explored in Calvino's novel Mr. Palomar, which explores if absolute objectivity is possible or even, agreeable. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_on_a_winter%27s_night_a_traveler [Jun 2006]

See also: postmodern literature - Italo Calvino - narrator

2006, June 30; 19:05 ::: Self-referentiality

In search of the techniques of modernism and postmodernism

If one accepts self-referentiality as a basic feature of postmodernism, one has to conclude that this fragmentation was already a feature of modernism. [Jun 2006]

A review of play The Play's the Thing (1926):

Anyone who thinks self-referentiality is a postmodern invention will be surprised to hear Molnár's characters speak of how a play should begin in actually beginning the play and enacting three possible Act 2 conclusions. When Ilona and Almady rehearse their actual conversation as Turai's play, mirrors reflects mirrors to wonderfully dizzying effect.

The Hungarian Molnár (1878-1952) uses a simple farcical plot for sophisticated look at the interplay of reality and illusion uncovering the artifice of the former and the truth of the latter. Unlike the anxiety and despair such a subject produces in Pirandello's "Six Characters in search of an Author", Molnár accepts the intermingling of real and unreal as a fact of life, gently amused that this should trouble anyone. Adapter P. G. Wodehouse of Jeeves and Wooster fame gives the work his own brand of witty absurdity. --http://www.stage-door.org/reviews/misc2003c.htm

In fact, it can be argued that this self-referentiality was already present in Shakespeare's plays:

William Shakespeare used this device (play within a play) notably in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Love's Labours Lost, and Hamlet. In Shakespeare's Hamlet the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet himself, asks some strolling players to perform the Murder of Gonzago. The action and characters in the play mirror some of the events from the play Hamlet itself, and Prince Hamlet writes additional material to emphasise this. Hamlet wishes to provoke his uncle and sums this up by saying "the play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Hamlet calls this new play The Mouse-trap, a title which Agatha Christie later took for the long-running play The Mousetrap. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_within_a_story [Jul 2006]

See also: postmodernism - modernism - self-referentiality - technique

2006, June 30; 19:05 ::: Fragmentation

In search of the techniques of modernism and postmodernism

If one accepts fragmentation as a basic feature of postmodernism, one has to conclude that this fragmentation was already a feature of modernism. [Jun 2006]

Postmodernism was first identified as a theoretical discipline in the 1970s, but as a cultural movement it predates them by many years. Exactly when modernism began to give way to postmodernism depends on the observer and the theoretical framework. Some theorists reject that such a distinction even exists, viewing postmodernism, for all its claims of fragmentation and plurality, as still existing within a larger "modernist" framework. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas is a strong proponent of this view, which has aspects of a lumpers/splitters problem: is the entire 20th century one period, or two distinct periods? --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_development_of_postmodernism

See also: postmodernism - modernism - fragmentation - technique

2006, June 28; 19:05 ::: I do not write for a select minority

In search of postmodern literature

"I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as 'The Masses'. Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time." — Introduction to The Book of Sand by Borges

See also: postmodern literature - Jorge Luis Borges - the masses - friends

2006, June 28; 19:05 ::: Postmodern literature

In search of experimental literature

"Martin Amis belongs to the generation that introduced the postmodernist novel into the literature of Great Britain." says Michael J Meyer in Literature and the Writer (2004).

But just what is postmodernism in literature? Can we define it until we have adequately defined modern literature and modernist literature? Does the nouveau roman belong to postmodern literature? And do magic realism, maximalism, hysterical realism? Has postmodern literature been influenced by television, just as modernist literature was influenced by the phonograph, the telephone and cinema?

The literature which arose as a series of styles and ideas in the post-World War II period which reacted against the perceived norms of modernist literature has been termed postmodern literature. It can also be described as a literature that keeps on going, from the World War II till the present literature. The style of narrative breaks from modernism, in its earlier form, with the idea of subconscious-mind-talk, a continuous conscience stream of narrative, this in a nonconformist style of literature, with authors such as Angela Carter (author of The Bloody Chamber, a collection of gothic styled fairy tales) being renowned for it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature [Jun 2006]
Wikipedia has this on the relationship between postmodern literature and magical realism
Magical realism is often considered a subcategory of postmodern fiction due to its challenge to hegemony and its use of techniques similar to those of other postmodernist texts, such as the distortion of time. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_realism#Relation_to_other_genres_and_movements [Jun 2006]

Furthermore, Wikipedia has this list of postmodern authors to which I have just added Martin Amis.

Kobo Abe * Kathy Acker * Oscar Acosta * Sherman Alexie * Martin Amis * Gloria E. Anzaldúa * Paul Auster * J.G. Ballard * Julian Barnes * John Barth * Donald Barthelme * Saul Bellow * William Boyd * T.C. Boyle * Malcolm Bradbury * William S. Burroughs * Octavia Butler * Pat Cadigan * Italo Calvino * Norma Elia Cantú * Angela Carter * Raymond Carver * Ana Castillo * Theresa Hak Kyung Cha * James Chapman * Sandra Cisneros * Robert Coover * John Crowley * Mark Z. Danielewski * Don DeLillo * Samuel R. Delany * Phillip K. Dick * James Patrick Donleavy * Umberto Eco * Bret Easton Ellis * Ralph Ellison * Dave Eggers * Louise Erdrich * Raymond Federman * Jonathan Safran Foer * John Fowles * William Gaddis * Neil Gaiman * John Gardner * Alex Garland * Romain Gary * William H. Gass * Eckhard Gerdes * William Gibson * James Gunn * Jessica Hagedorn * Joseph Heller * Andrés Ibáñez * Robert Irwin * Kazuo Ishiguro * Shelley Jackson * B.S. Johnson * Michael Joyce * Maxine Hong Kingston * Jerzy Kosinski * John Knowles * Prakash Kona * Ursula K. Le Guin * Randie Lipkin * Dimitris Lyacos * Cormac McCarthy * Joseph McElroy * Jon McGregor * Arthur Miller * David Mitchell * N. Scott Momaday * Alan Moore * Toni Morrison * Bharati Mukherjee * Haruki Murakami * Vladimir Nabokov * Tim O'Brien * Chuck Palahniuk * Orhan Pamuk * Suzan-Lori Parks * Victor Pelevin * Thomas Pynchon * Catherine M. Rae * Ishmael Reed * Adrienne Rich * Tomás Rivera * Philip Roth * Salman Rushdie * George Saunders * Leslie Marmon Silko * Vladimir Sorokin * Art Spiegelman * Neal Stephenson * Tom Stoppard * Michael Szymczyk * Amy Tan * William T. Vollmann * Kurt Vonnegut * David Foster Wallace * Irvine Welsh * Jeanette Winterson --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_postmodern_authors [Jun 2006]

See also: Angela Carter - experimental - nouveau roman - postmodern literature - Martin Amis

2006, June 26; 19:05 ::: Sleep (1963) - Andy Warhol

In search of "anti-film"

Sleep is a 1963 film by Andy Warhol which consists of long take footage of John Giorno sleeping for over five hours. It was one of Warhol's first experiments with filmmaking, and was created as an "anti-film". Warhol would later extend this technique to his eight-hour-long film Empire. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_%28film%29 [Jun 2006]

Howlings in Favor of de Sade (1952) by Guy Debord also belongs to the "anti-film" category, and I suppose John Cage's 4' 33'' (1952) belongs to the category "anti-music". Marcel Duchamp's Fountain belongs to the category "anti-art".

See also: 1963 - sleeping - anti- - film

2006, June 26; 19:05 ::: Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) - Craig Baldwin

Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) - Craig Baldwin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Filmmaker Craig Baldwin is reinventing cinema by using found footage to create visual collages with political messages. His film, Specters of the Spectrum battles with corporate media control but although he has not explicitly made a series, all his films have reverberating themes which hint at what Baldwin is really after: a new way of understanding art and ownership. Baldwin is revolutionizing what connotes a documentary, is supporting the micro-cinema movement, is acting as a cultural archeologist, and is using collage and culture jamming for activist, as well as aesthetic, means. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectres_of_the_Spectrum [Jun 2006]

Craig Baldwin
Craig Baldwin, born in 1952, is an American experimental filmmaker. He uses “found” footage from the fringes of popular consciousness as well as images from the mass media to undermine and transform the traditional documentary, infusing it with the energy of high-speed montage and a provocative commentary that targets subjects from intellectual property rights to rampant consumerism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Baldwin [Jun 2006]

Political Cinema
Political Cinema in the narrow sense of the term is a cinema which portrays current or historical events or social conditions in a partisan way in order to inform or to agitate the spectator. Political cinema exists in different forms such as documentaries, feature films, or even animated and experimental films. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_Cinema [Jun 2006]

See also: found - footage - mass media - documentary film - electronic

2006, June 26; 19:05 ::: Death 24x a Second : Stillness and the Moving Image (2006) - Laura Mulvey

Death 24x a Second : Stillness and the Moving Image (2006) - Laura Mulvey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"In 1995 the cinema celebrated its 100th birthday..." (more)

Death 24x a Second is a fascinating exploration of the role new media technologies play in our experience of film. Addressing some of the key questions of film theory, spectatorship, and narrative, Laura Mulvey here argues that such technologies, including home DVD players, have fundamentally altered our relationship to the movies. According to Mulvey, new media technologies give viewers the ability to control both image and story, so that movies meant to be seen collectively and followed in a linear fashion may be manipulated to contain unexpected and even unintended pleasures. The individual frame, the projected film’s best-kept secret, can now be revealed by anyone who hits pause. Easy access to repetition, slow motion, and the freeze-frame, Mulvey argues, may shift the spectator’s pleasure to a fetishistic rather than a voyeuristic investment in film. By exploring how technology can give new life to old cinema, Death 24x a Second offers an original reevaluation of film’s history and its historical usefulness. --from the publisher

See also: death - film - Laura Mulvey

2006, June 26; 19:05 ::: Taschen presents: Fantasy Worlds (1999) - John Maizels, Deidi von Schaewen

Taschen presents: Fantasy Worlds (1999) - John Maizels, Deidi von Schaewen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

See also: visionary architecture - fantasy - world - Taschen

2006, June 25; 19:05 ::: We have Freud to thank for the prestige of film

Has cinema changed the nature of literature?

Below is an excerpt from the Lee Siegel article quoted in Dan Green's 2005 post quoted in my previous post. Siegel holds that "we have Freud to blame for the long-drawn-out extinction of literary character" and that "[film] has replaced the novel as the dominant art form in our culture" and "we have Freud to thank for the prestige of film.":

Thus the postwar rise of the nouveau roman, with its absence of character, and of the postmodern and experimental novels, with their many strategies -- self-annulling irony, deliberate cartoonishness, montage-like ''cutting'' -- for releasing fiction from its dependence on character. For all the rich work published after the war, there's barely a fictional figure that has the memorableness of a Gatsby, a Nick Adams, a Baron Charlus, a Leopold Bloom, a Settembrini. And that's leaving aside the magnificent 19th century, when authors plumbed the depths of the human mind with something on the order of clairvoyance. Of course, before that, there was Shakespeare. And Cervantes. And Dante. And . . . It seems that the further back you go in time, away from Freud, the deeper the psychological portraits you encounter in literary art. Nowadays, often even the most accomplished novels offer characters that are little more than flat, ghostly reflections of characters. The author's voice, or self-consciousness about voice, substitutes mere eccentricity for an imaginative surrender to another life.

But if we have Freud to blame for the long-drawn-out extinction of literary character, we also have Freud to thank for the prestige of film. The depiction of fictional people's inner lives is not the strength of the silver screen. Character gets revealed to us by plot turns, camera angles, musical scores -- by abstract, impersonal forces, much like Freud's concepts. In a novel, character is shaped from the inside out; in a film, it's molded from the outside and stays outside. How many movie characters can you think of -- with the exception, perhaps, of Citizen Kane -- whose names have the archetypal particularity of Isabel Archer or Sister Carrie? --http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0DA1031F93BA35756C0A9639C8B63 [Jun 2006]

If anything, Lee Siegel's article maintains that film has substantially altered the nature of literature. Which is ironic since Freud is supposed to have said of film:

"The Kino is a vulgar modern entertainment and I doubt if it can tell us anything serious about the modern condition."

See also: Freud - film - literature

2006, June 25; 19:05 ::: The Reading Experience on psychological realism

Dan Green of The Reading Experience reiterates on a previous post on psychological realism:

(I think Siegel is wrong in claiming that 19th century writers "plumbed the depths of the human mind with something on the order of clairvoyance." Before [Henry] James (or Flaubert, or Chekhov), the reigning narrative model was the picaresque, which surely emphasizes event over reflection, and which generally produces characters that are flat indeed--although not necessarily without color or vibrancy. One could say that writers such as George Eliot or Hawthorne or Melville plumbed the depths of the human soul, but they did not do so using the techniques of psychological realism as we have come to know them. It was as an addition to the strategies used by 19th century writers that stream of consciousness and what might be called psychological exposition--in which the writer describes what's going on inside a character's mind in the same way he/she might describe landscape or event--came to be identified as "modern" in the first place. And while Siegel blames Freud for the ulimate decline of "character" in fiction, he neglects to mention that the great modernist writers were partly inspired by Freud to try out the possibilities of "plumbing the depths" in the first place.) --http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience

While The Reading Experience situates psychological realism in the 19th century, Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel (1957) situates its introduction in the 18th-century. [Jun 2006]

See also: 19th century literature - realist literature - psychological novel

2006, June 25; 19:05 ::: Time Regained (1999) - Raoul Ruiz

In search of the value of film adaptations.

I'm in the midst of a mini-project which consists of seeing film adaptations of literary classics. A couple of weeks ago I saw Madame Bovary by Claude Chabrol starring Isabelle Huppert and yesterday it was Time Regained by Carlos Ruiz, which is a:

is a 1999 film directed by Raoul Ruiz. It is an adaptation of the final volume of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. The plot is about Marcel Proust (1871-1922) who reflects on his past experiences while lying on his deathbed. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Regained_%28film%29 [Jun 2006]

Time Regained (1999) - Raoul Ruiz [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The goal of my mini-project is to dis/prove that watching the film adaptation of a novel is a good way to form an opinion on the work at hand; to further my defense of secondary sources (am I correct to believe that a film adaptation is secondary literature?), to view both film and literature of ways of telling a story and to accord the most importance to the story. I liked Bovary a lot and felt it is a novel I would enjoy reading, but I did not feel I wanted to read Proust after seeing this film adaptation. I think I liked the movie better than the book. Proust strikes me as a bore and most of his friends too. The most amusing character is Charlus (a character based on the real character Robert de Montesquiou, played here by John Malkovitch) who is a very rich gay dandy who likes to be treated roughly by younger men, who he finds in a specialized brothel. All of the characters in the film are aristocrats or nouveaux riches who meet for tea or see each other at very posh parties. Boredom in itself is not necessarily boring and the movie was interesting, but I don't think I will read the book any time soon.

Next on my mini-project list is Ulysses by Joyce, which I read when I was fifteen or sixteen and which I thought was ... boring.

Both Ulysses and In Search of Lost Time are semiautobiographical (Ulysses less explicitly), and if the lives are boring, the books are bound to be the same. Colin Wilson has commented upon this (following T. S. Eliot) that Proust and Joyce had nothing to say after they had shared their worldviews in their books. He compares this to Dickens of which he says that he also shared his worldview with us, but he has written many novels because he always had a new story to tell us. Much modernist and modern literature is autobiographical in nature and not very story-oriented. More on this and the development of realist literature later. [Jun 2006]

See also: (auto)biography - classic - adaptation - In Search of Lost Time - Marcel Proust

2006, June 23; 19:05 ::: La Morte Amoureuse (1836) - Gautier

They used to say that she was a ghoul, a female vampire; but I believe she was none other than Beelzebub himself." --page 18

BROTHER, you ask me if I have ever loved. Yes. My story is a strange and terrible one; and though I am sixty-six years of age, I scarcely dare even now to disturb the ashes of that memory. To you I can refuse nothing; but I should not relate such a tale to any less experienced mind. So strange were the circumstances of my story, that I can scarcely believe myself to have ever actually been a party to them. For more than three years I remained the victim of a most singular and diabolical illusion. Poor country priest though I was, I led every night in a dream— would to God it had been all a dream!— a most worldly life, a damning life, a life of a Sardanapalus. One single look too freely cast upon a woman well-nigh caused me to lose my soul; but finally by the grace of God and the assistance of my patron saint, I succeeded in casting out the evil spirit that possessed me. My daily life was long interwoven with a nocturnal life of a totally different character. By day I was a priest of the Lord, occupied with prayer and sacred things; by night, from the instant that I closed my eyes I became a young nobleman, a fine connoisseur in women, dogs, and horses; gambling, drinking, and blaspheming; and when I awoke at early daybreak, it seemed to me, on the other hand, that I had been sleeping, and had only dreamed that I was a priest. Of this somnambulistic life there now remains to me only the recollection of certain scenes and words which I cannot banish from my memory; but although I never actually left the walls of my presbytery, one would think to hear me speak that I were a man who, weary of all worldly pleasures, had become a religious, seeking to end a tempestuous life in the service of God, rather than an humble seminarist who has grown old in this obscure curacy, situated in the depths of the woods and even isolated from the life of the century. --page 1

La Morte Amoureuse has been translated as The Dead in Love and is available in Joan Kessler's Demons of the Night : Tales of the Fantastic, Madness, and the Supernatural from Nineteenth-Century France (1995).

See also: 1830s - Théophile Gautier - female vampire

2006, June 23; 19:05 ::: The generic status of realism

In search of genre theory.

The predominance of ideologies of realism in our culture tends to mean that, unless marked as high art, many avowedly non-realist genres are viewed as frivolously escapist, as ‘mere fantasy', and thus as suitable only for children, or for ‘mindless', ‘irresponsible' adults. This, of course, is to refuse to acknowledge the generic status of realism itself (Todorov 1981: 18—20) quoted in Genre and Hollywood by Steve Neale

See also: Todorov - realism and literature - genre theory

2006, June 23; 19:05 ::: Writing Genres (2004) - Amy J. Devitt

In search of genre theory.

Writing Genres (2004) - Amy J. Devitt [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In Writing Genres, Amy J. Devitt examines genre from social, linguistic, professional, and historical perspectives and explores genre’s educational uses, making this volume the most comprehensive view of genre theory today.

This study’s research stems from the fields of rhetoric, composition, linguistics, communication studies, literary studies, and critical pedagogy, and works from rhetorical and social constructionist theory. Drawing from such theorists as Tzvetan Todorov, Mikhail Bakhtin, and M.A.K. Halliday, as well as the more recent efforts of Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David Russell, and Carolyn R. Miller, Devitt in turn blazes a trail for modern scholars by examining genres in their multiple contexts, exploring how genres develop, arguing that genres foster rather than restrict creativity, comparing literary and rhetorical genres, and advocating responsible teaching methods for future genre studies.

Recently, Todorov introduced me to the concept of exhaustibility, generalization via his book The Fantastic. I quote from pages 3 and 4:

"Are we entitled to discuss a genre without having studied (or at least read) all the works which constitute it?"
He answers: "no"
"One of the first characteristics of scientific method is that it does not require us to observe every instance of a phenomenon in order to describe it; scientific method proceeds rather by deduction."

See also: genre theory

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: Aesthetic movement, Decadent movement and Symbolist movement

In search of fault lines in Modernism: social realism (Manet, Courbet, Millet) vs art for art's sake (Aesthetic movement, Decadent movement and Symbolist movement)

Part 1: art for art's sake

Aestheticism: no spokesperson

Unlike aestheticism, which (as Ruth Z. Temple observes) never had an official or self-appointed spokesperson, during the fin de siècle the phenomenon of Decadence became the object of considerable explanation in both England and France.

Decadent movement: no coherent position

Even then, as Asti Hustvedt has pointed out, the contributions to the literary journal Le Décadent, which Anatole Baju edited in the late 1880s "never articulated a coherent position."

Decadent movement: Nietzsche has little to say

... Charles Bernheimer observes, "Nietzsche has very little to say concerning French decadence, about which he is not particularly well informed.

London tries to create a clear distinction between Decadence and its near-twin Symbolisme

London literary culture engaged seriously with Decadence somewhat belatedly. It was in 1891—a threshold moment after Baju abandoned Decadence and before Nordau railed against it—that Lionel Johnson attempted to make one of the first, necessarily inchoate assessments of this novel French import. In an issue of the Century Guild Hobby Horse (a leading art journal, ... he tried to create a clear distinction between Decadence and its near-twin Symbolisme—a term that Jean Moréas in 1886 devised to classify a tradition of modern French poetry that also traced its roots back to Baudelaire.

All quotes are from page 9 of The Fin-de-Siecle Poem: English Literary Culture and the 1890s (2005) edited by Joseph Bristow [Jun 2006]

See also: Aesthetic movement - Symbolist movement - decadent movement

See also: social realism - art for art's sake

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899) - Arthur Symons

The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899) - Arthur Symons [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Without symbolism there can be no literature; indeed, not even language. Words themselves are symbols. Symbolism began with the first words uttered by the first man as he named every living thing. In a symbol there is concealment, yet revelation. All of these have greatly contributed to our understanding of symbolism. Contents: Gerard de Nerval; Villiers de L'isle Adam; Arthur Rimbaud; Paul Verlaine; Jules Laforgue; Stephane Mallarme; The Later Huysmans; Maeterlinck as a Mystic. Essays by: Balzac; Prosper Merimee; Theophile Gautier; Gustave Flaubert; Charles Baudelaire; Edmond and Jules de Goncourt; Leon Cladel; A Note on Zola's Method. --from the publisher

During its peak in England, Decadence had become almost synonymous with Symbolist writing. Symons's book The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899) had originally been advertised as The Decadent Movement in Literature. He had also published an essay entitled "The Decadent Movement in Literature" in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1893. --http://www.glbtq.com/literature/decadence,5.html [Jun 2006]

Arthur William Symons (February 28, 1865 - January 22, 1945), was a British poet and critic. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Symons [Jun 2006]

See also: 1893 - 1899 - Symbolist literature - decadent movement

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: Bruges-La-Morte (1892) - Georges Rodenbach

Bruges-La-Morte (1892) - Georges Rodenbach [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Hugues Viane is a widower who has turned to the melancholy, decaying city of Bruges as the ideal location in which to mourn his wife and as a backdrop for the narcissistic wanderings of his disturbed spirit. He becomess obsessed with a young dancer whom he believes is the double of his beloved wife. The consequent drama leads Hugues to psychological torment and humiliation, culminating in a deranged murder. This 1892 work is a poet’s novel, dense, visionary and haunting. Bruges, the ‘dead city’, becomes a metaphor for Hugues' dead wife as he follows its mournful labyrinth of streets and canals in a cyclical promenade of reflection and allusion -- the ultimate evocation of Rodenbach’s lifelong love affair with the enduring mystery and mortuary atmosphere of Bruges.

A short novel by the Belgian author Georges Rodenbach, first published in 1892. The title is difficult to translate but might be rendered as The Dead City of Bruges. It tells the story of Hugues Viane, a widower overcome with grief, who takes refuge in Bruges, where he becomes obsessed with an actress he sees at the opera who is the exact likeness of his dead wife. The book is notable for its poetic evocation of the decaying city and for its innovative form: Rodenbach interspersed his text with dozens of black-and-white photographs of Bruges. As such, the novel influenced many later writers, including W.G. Sebald. The plot of the book may also have had an indirect influence on Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo. In 1920, the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold used the novel as the basis for his opera Die Tote Stadt. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruges_la_Morte [Jun 2006]

See also: 1892 - decadent movement

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) - Théophile Gautier

Nothing is truly beautiful except that which can serve for nothing; whatever is useful is ugly. --preface to the 1835 edition

Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) - Théophile Gautier [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Aubrey Beardsley illustration of
Sourced here.

Chevalier d'Albert fantasizes about his ideal lover, yet every woman he meets falls short of his exacting standards of female perfection. Embarking on an affair with the lovely Rosette to ease his boredom, he is thrown into tumultuous confusion when she receives a dashing young visitor. Exquisitely handsome, Theodore inspires passions d'Albert never believed he could feel for a man and Rosette also seems to be in thrall to the charms of her guest. Does this bafflingly alluring person have a secret to hide? Subversive and seductive, "Mademoiselle de Maupin" (1835) draws readers into the bedrooms and boudoirs of a French chateau in a compelling exploration of desire and sexual intrigue. --via Amazon.de

Its preface featured a defense of art for art's sake.

See also: 1830s - decadent movement - Aubrey Beardsley - Théophile Gautier

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: Bouzingo

The Bouzingo were a group of eccentric poets, novelists, and artists in France during the 1830’s that practiced an extreme form of romanticism whose influence helped determine the course of culture in the 20th century including such movements as bohemianism, parnassianism, symbolism, decadence, aestheticism, dadaism, surrealism, the lost generation the beat generation, hippies, punk rock, etc.

Bouzingoism is the spirit of revolution, a revolution against the ascendancy of power by the philistine bourgeoisie. This spirit was embodied in the “art for art’s sake” creed of Théophile Gautier, in the eccentricities and the poetry of Gérard de Nerval, by the lycanthropy and dark irony of Petrus Borel, and by those who gathered around them known as the Bouzingo. They were a decadent and radical offshoot of romanticism and represented an unabashed taste for vampirism, shocking offenses, and self-styled satanism. They considered themselves a thorn in the side of the bourgeoisie meant to aggravate and irritate polite society. They roamed the streets making a scene wherever they went. They had long hair and grew moustaches and beards. They dressed with an air of ironic aristocracy to spite and mock the bourgeoisie.

They were fanatical extremists who delved heavily in the occult, black humor, dream/nightmare, and imagination inspired by Cervantes from Spain, Schiller and Goethe from Germany, Lord Byron and Shelley (the “satanic poets” of English Romanticism), and Emanuel Swedenborg (the 18th century Swedish occultist). They experimented with drugs and took their Romantic idealism to extremes. Although the Bouzingos have been obscured in the history of literature and art, there is no disputing their invaluable influence in the construction of modernism. Credit to the Bouzingos can be found in writings from Baudelaire to the Surrealists and are credited to the origins of the avant-garde. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouzingo [Jun 2006]

Question: Which art movements need capitalization. See this discussion on Wikipedia.

For references to this movement there is some info in On Bohemia by Cesar Grana, Marigay Grana, 1990 - Chapter: Bouzingos and Jeunes-France pp. 365-369.

See also: bohemia - counterculture through the ages - avant-gardes

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: The Torture Garden (1899) - Octave Mirbeau

"To priests, soldiers, judges, men who educate, lead and govern men, I dedicate these pages of Murder and Blood" --dedication of Torture Garden

Mirbeau’s most notorious novel The Torture Garden has often been likened to Conrad's 1902 Heart of Darkness, because of their similar framing device and their treatment of postcolonialism.

See also: 1899 - Torture Garden (1899) - Octave Mirbeau

2006, June 22; 19:05 ::: On Hashish (1927 - 1934) - Walter Benjamin

New translation of Benjamin classic

On Hashish (1927 - 1934) - Walter Benjamin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Walter Benjamin's posthumously published collection of writings on hashish is a detailed blueprint for a book that was never written--a "truly exceptional book about hashish," as Benjamin describes it in a letter to his friend Gershom Scholem. A series of "protocols of drug experiments," written by himself and his co-participants between 1927 and 1934, together with short prose pieces that he published during his lifetime, On Hashish provides a peculiarly intimate portrait of Benjamin, venturesome as ever at the end of the Weimar Republic, and of his unique form of thought.

Consciously placing himself in a tradition of literary drug-connoisseurs from Baudelaire to Hermann Hesse, Benjamin looked to hashish and other drugs for an initiation into what he called "profane illumination." At issue here, as everywhere in Benjamin's work, is a new way of seeing, a new connection to the ordinary world. Under the influence of hashish, as time and space become inseparable, experiences become subtly stratified and resonant: we inhabit more than one plane in time. What Benjamin, in his contemporaneous study of Surrealism, calls "image space" comes vividly to life in this philosophical immersion in the sensuous.

This English-language edition of On Hashish features a section of supplementary materials--drawn from Benjamin's essays, letters, and sketches--relating to hashish use, as well as a reminiscence by his friend Jean Selz, which concerns a night of opium-smoking in Ibiza. A preface by Howard Eiland discusses the leading motifs of Benjamin's reflections on intoxication. --https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/BENONX.html [Jun 2006]

Via http://monkeyfilter.com

Online version in previous translation by Scott Thompson here.

See also: Walter Benjamin - Profane illumination - recreational drugs in literature - hashish

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