'Defamiliarization and Discontinuity: Rimbaud's 'Parade', 'Angoisse, 'Soir historique'

Gerald Macklin

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    This article considers three poems from Rimbaud's collection the Illuminations - 'Parade', 'Angoisse' and 'Soir historique' - in terms of what they reveal about the poet's approach to the prose poem as a genre. In particular, it is the issue of poetic structure that is paramount here and how Rimbaud defamiliarizes his reader through an ongoing principle of discontinuity in the writing. There are pivotal moments in the microstructure of these poems as the reader is constantly challenged by reversals and reorientations. in the case of 'Parade' we find a very hermetic and ambiguous text that resists interpretation and one feels that the second paragraph of the poem stands in opposition to the first. There is a self-consciousness about the poem and the isolated last line "J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage" only underscores its mystery. With 'Angoisse' we again find a poem that has no logical or linear development but rather is built on pulses and eruptions that are unfamilair and defy continuity. There are sudden gear-changes in tempo allied to a highly unusual deployment of punctuation and a structural instability throughout as each section takes its own direction. The finale is another unanticipated piece in the structural mosaic of the poem. Finally, 'Soir historique' is another multi-layered, chameleon-like text and a further exercise in poetic discontinuity. The early stages seem to lack impetus but this only leaves scope for the dramatic intensification in the finale of the poem and the dynamic volte-face that it presents. The pivotal word "Non!" at the start of the final section is revelatory of a wider pattern in these poems and it leads to a radical dislocation of the text. Finally, one might ask whether all these changes of direction in these poems are spontaneous or crafted, the product of a chaotic genius or of a presiding artistic intelligence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-176
    JournalNottingham French Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2000

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: N. Wing Present Appearances: Aspects of Poetic Structure in Rimbaud's Illuminations, Mississippi Romance Monographs no.9, Mississippi, 1974

    Arthur Rimbaud, Oeuvres, ed. by S. Bernard and A. Guyaux, Garnier, Paris, 1987

    G.M. Macklin 'Rimbaud mystificateur: Distancing the reader in the Illuminations', FRENCH STUDIES BULLETIN, no. 56, autumn, 1995, pp. 8-12

    Arthur Rimbaud Illuminations, ed. by Nick Osmond, Athlone French Poets, The Athlone Press, London, 1976

    Paul Verlaine, Oeuvres poétiques, ed. by Jacques Robichez, Garnier, Paris, 1969

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    R G Cohn The Poetry of Rimbaud, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, 1999

    J Lawler Rimbaud's Theatre of the Self, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma., 1992

    R Little Illuminations, Critical Guides to French Texts, no.29, Grant and Cutler, London, 1983


    • prose poem
    • microstructure
    • discontinuity
    • defamiliarization


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