French and Italian | Studies in 19th-century French Literature
F640 | 28923 | Valazza, Nicolas

In spite of the rejection of classical poetics that, at the beginning
of the 19th century, characterized the emergence of romantic
literature in France, the figure of the lyric Muse—that is
Erato—maintained its privileged status among the new generation of
poets, assembled among the cenacle of La Muse française, such as Hugo,
Lamartine, Vigny and Desbordes-Valmore. Even after Gautier declared
the death of the inspiring Muse in his Comédie de la mort, this very
figure continued to rise from her ashes throughout the century, never
ceasing to transfigure herself. The multiple avatars of the Muse came
to be identified, for instance, with the “Muse vénale” chanted by
Baudelaire and the poets of the Parnasse satyrique, the “Venus
Anadyomène” mocked by Rimbaud and, eventually, with the figure of
Salome, the “decadent Muse” who, towards the end of the 19th century,
became an obsessive subject for many writers, such as Flaubert,
Mallarmé, Huysmans and Wilde, as well as for visual artists such as
Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon and Aubrey Beardsley. The purpose of this
seminar is thus to follow the successive metamorphoses of the Muse
figure in the 19th century, by reading selected works by the authors
mentioned above, in connection with several visual examples. Readings
and class discussion will be in French and in English.