Theses Doctoral

Writing Against the Reader: Poetry and Readership in France 1840-1880

Lerescu, Jacqueline Michelle

This dissertation examines the changing ways in which nineteenth-century French poets addressed readers and constructed relationships with them from the late Romantic period through the rise of the Symbolist movement. While poetry’s increased isolation from the public is recognized as an important facet of the evolution of nineteenth-century poetry, the specific reasons for this have not been broadly studied. This dissertation first examines the poet-reader relationship in prefaces to poetic works, examining the shift from Romantic poets such as Victor Hugo and Alphonse de Lamartine, who considered addressing humanity an important part of their vocation, to mid-century poets such as Charles Baudelaire, Lautréamont and Charles Cros, who used prefaces to criticize and chase away readers, to later poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, who abstained from addressing readers by not writing prefaces or publishing their poetry. In order to understand the reasons for this shift, this dissertation examines new media and new readers which these poets rejected as the antithesis of poetry: the press, women and working-class readers. This dissertation studies poetry and critical articles in the mainstream press, women’s publications and publications by and for workers to reveal the models of the poet-reader relationship they presented. In so doing, it creates a broader view of poetic practices and readership in this period, which remain understudied in literary history. The models of the poet-reader relationship evident there demonstrate that rather than ignoring or rejecting them, elite poets defined poetry and readership in direct relation to these other practices and audiences.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Thesis Advisors
Debaene, Vincent
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2015