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Unfolding MallarméThe Development of a Poetic Art$
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Roger Pearson

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198159179

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198159179.001.0001

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May ʼ68

May ʼ68

Chapter:
(p.141) 1 May ʼ68
Source:
Unfolding Mallarmé
Author(s):

Roger Pearson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198159179.003.0010

Mallarmé underwent a crisis during (approximately) the two years which elapsed between his visit to Lefébure at Cannes (29 March–6 April 1866) and his letter to Lefébure of 3 May 1868 in which he first implies the existence of the ‘Sonnet en yx’. The nature of this crisis, which ‘rumbles on’ in the correspondence until 1871, has been much discussed, most often in religious and metaphysical terms. Did it principally involve a loss of religious faith? Did Mallarmé see himself caught up in some Hegelian dialectic of ‘l'Absolu’ and ‘le Néant’? Did he, in Cannes, undergo some mystical revelation whereby he came to see the ‘drame solaire’ as the cosmic projection at once of man's existential anguish and of his inner ‘divinité’? To see the crisis in these terms, however, is in part to be misled by Mallarmé's uncharacteristically pretentious language. For the crisis was unquestionably, above all, a ‘crise de vers’ — and a ‘crise’ brought on by the writing of the ‘Ouverture’ to ‘Herodiade’.

Keywords:   Mallarmé, Hérodiade, poetry, pretentious language, crisis

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