'Patterns of Elemental Imagery in Rimbaud's Illuminations'

Gerald Macklin

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    This article considers how the four elements form a significant part of Rimbaud's imagery in the Illuminations. In the course of the paper reference is made regularly to the works of Gaston Bachelard whose phenomenological approach to image has revealed the hidden unconscious levels on which creative expression is shaped. Also included is the thinking of Jean-Pierre Richard, an influential thématicien whose work on Rimbaud has been extremely insightful on the level of the poetic image. The paper looks at all areas of Rimbaud's work for evidence of the importance of elemental imagery but is primaruily concerned with the prose poems of the Illuminations.The storm, liminal areas between land and sea, the reconciliation of elemental opposites - these are key areas highlighted in the study. As a modus operandi the elements are treated in turn and poems such as 'Mémoire' and 'Les Corbeaux' support the investigation of air and its associations in Rimbaud. Fire is seen as an agent of destruction but also a symbol of power and knowledge, 'Après le déluge' and 'Vagabonds' figuring in this connection. For earth imagery the paper turns to 'Aube' and 'Enfance' as well as 'Les Poètes de sept ans'. Finally, with water in mind the article looks again at 'Aube' and 'Après le déluge' as well as finales in the Illuminations involving self-destruction in stormy seas. Rimbaud's affinity with the polar regions and thus with ice ['Barbare'] is explored and the reconciliation of elemental opposites is studied via 'L'Eternité' and 'Barbare'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)22-36
    JournalNottingham French Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1992


    • prose poem
    • elements
    • imagery


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