Final Paper

Final Paper - Carly Weil Challenges of Modernity Final...

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Carly Weil Challenges of Modernity Final Paper Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, has been widely regarded as one of the grandfathers of modernity. Indeed, it has been said that his poem “Le Cygne” (English translation, “The Swan”) started the Modernist movement 1 . Of all his books, Les Fleurs du Mal (English translation, “ The Flowers of Evil ,” first published in 1857) is the most well known, with its violent themes and revolutionary style. The book itself was in fact almost banned due to its reported vulgarity and lack of moral sense. Instead, six poems deemed especially explicit were removed from the text. Baudelaire’s work as both a poet and a translator/critic, specifically of fellow poet Edgar Allan Poe, has lived on to inspire younger poets such as T. S. Eliot, as well as artists in other fields such as the Cubist painter Pablo Picasso. Baudelaire’s fame ranges so far as for his name to be used in a recent children’s book, A Series of Unfortunate Events . 2 Although “Le Cygne” is one of his most famous poems, the darker poem “Heautontimoroumenos” is more exemplary of Baudelaire’s work and mentality. Formal analysis of Charles Baudelaire’s poems must begin with his book, Les Fleurs du Mal , as a whole. Baudelaire wrote the poems contained in the book not as individual verses but as one long flowing piece 3 . Baudelaire put a great deal of effort into the construction of Les Fleurs du Mal with the hopes of creating an overarching feeling that ran through the entirety of the book. He took the assembly of the book so seriously that when six of his poems were deemed inappropriate, Baudelaire reworked the entire 1 Lloyd, Rosemary, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire . Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UP, 2005. xiii-xiv. 2 Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events . HarperCollins, 1999. 3 Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil . Trans. Keith Waldrop. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan UP, 2006.
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book to make up for their loss. There are many themes that arise throughout the book and the various poems relate and speak to one another. This attention to fluidity and structure is reminiscent of a musical composer. The various sections of Baudelaire’s book can be seen as movements, each with their own tempo and feeling. “Heautontimoroumenos” is placed in the section titled “Spleen et Idéal” (English translation, “Spleen and Ideal”), in which the narrator battles between the two extremes in life: Good (“Ideal”) and Evil (“Spleen”) 4 . This section has a specific flow of emotion, each poem playing off the ones before it and feeding into the ones after it. It begins slightly nostalgic, reflecting on memory and beauty. Yet it quickly descends into despair and hopelessness. “Heautontimoroumenos,” the second to last poem in this chapter, displays this pessimistic attitude. The poem is broken up into seven stanzas of four lines each.
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Final Paper - Carly Weil Challenges of Modernity Final...

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