French 215 is the close study of a body of poetry which ranks among the most influential in Western literature, and which initiates modern poetics. Baudelaire: romanticism and the modern; Verlaine: free verse and the liberation of the poetic form; Rimbaud: the visionary and the surreal. Analysis of texts and their historical context, through a variety of theoretical approaches.

Works will include Les Fleurs du mal and Baudelaire's prose poems (Le Spleen de Paris); as well as essays by Baudelaire on literature and art (together with discussions of paintings by Manet and others). We will also read a selection of Verlaine's poems from several volumes; Rimbaud's verse poems, Une Saison en enfer, complexities of poetic from in Les Fleurs du mal, subversion of traditional versification in Verlaine and Rimbaud, Baudelaire's invention of the modern prose poem and Rimbaud's extraordinary explorations of the form. Well-known associations between Verlaine and the paintings of Watteau and music by Debussy will be treated, as well as the mysteriously striking correspondences between Rimbaud's poetry and the paintings of Van Gogh. The historical setting--the failed revolution of 1848, Louis Napoléon's coup d'état and the oppressive regime of the Second Empire, including the trial of Les Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire's celebration of Paris and the "heroism of modern life," and Rimbaud's commitment to the revolutionary Commune of 1871, as well as the link between this political stance and his visionary poetics--will be evoked. Issues of sexuality and gender will also be central: the sensualism of the non-European woman and the celebration of exoticism in Baudelaire (as well as acute treatments of sexual and socioeconomic issues in his late prose poems); homosexuality in Verlaine and Rimbaud; visionary and surreal multiplications of sexuality in writing by Rimbaud.

One mid-term paper
One oral presentation
One final paper

Les Fleurs du mal, Baudelaire
Le Spleen de Paris, Baudelaire
Oeuvres Poétiques, Verlaine
Oeuvres, Rimbaud

Manet, Watteau, Van Gogh

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