Seductive Resistance: The Poetry of Théophile Gautier

Gautier's poetry merits an attentive reading which respects his own essential criterion of poeticity, namely, textuality. This is a poetry which puts on display its literariness, that is, its existence as cultural artifact. In so doing, however, it also puts on display the absence of and its resistance to whatever personal or real signified it would evoke or name. Its beauty and self-indulgent pleasure reveal their hollowness and inadequacy. Its chiseled, polished surface renders its borders or limits and its play unsatisfyingly and teasingly perceptible. Its very superficiality allows, invites and seduces the reader to go entre les lignesand perceive the mystery, not of what has been symbolically buried/unburied, concealed/revealed, but of the truly absent, the ab mes superficiels.Chapter 1, focusing on texts from the Po siesof 1830, studies the intextual repetition of Gautier's poetry, the citations, imitations and transpositions which make evident the poetry's displacement of the significant and the personal into aesthetic simulacra. Chapter 2 deals with the poems of Gautier's second collection, Albertus,and analyzes the use of allegory and of humor as further markers of textual substitution. The inherent lifelessness and illusoriness of the textual artifact is revealed in the poems of La Com die de la Mort,the collection examined in chapter 3. Chapter 4 analyzes the so-called descriptive, referential poetry of Espa a,and finds that the monde ext rieur of Gautier's poetry functions to express an absence of self and is itself always shown to be other than the Other. The dimunition of the poetic effected in Emaux et Cam esis the subject of chapter 5, and chapter 6 deals with the contextuality, the fetishism, and the eroticism revealed in a miscellany of poems - in particular the libertine poems - which do not figure in Gautier's five major collections.By short-circuiting significations and transforming them into seductive appearances, Gautier reveals himself to be the acknowledged ma treof both Baudelaire and Mallarm .

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