'Perspectives on the role of Punctuation in Rimbaud's Illuminations'

Gerald Macklin

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    This article examines the experimental use of punctuation in Rimbaud's Illuminations. It argues that this new type of punctuation is central to Rimbaud's conception of the prose poem . His audacious and plastic idiom in the Illuminations is enriched by his imaginative and unpredictable deployment of dashes, parentheses, capitalization, exclamation marks, italics and other such features. It is very much part of his "alchimie du verbe" and creates a new type of scansion for his new prose poem form. Beginning with dashes, the article seeks to shoe how the "tiret" has a range of functions in the collection being linked to colour and sound effects, to particular types of finale and to pivotal structural moments in poems. We also find thick accumulations of dashes at moments of key visionary breakthrough. The piece then considers how parentheses and italics figure in the Illuminations as agents of reorientation and mystification enhancing the complexity and enigmatic quality of many poems. This creates a sense of dépaysement as does the widespread capitalization in the collection which adds to the mystery of so many characters - Lulu, the Vampire, H. Exclamation marks are also used prolifically and at times we find an explosion of some or all of the above elements of punctuation to startling effect for the reader as in 'Barbare' and 'Nocturne vulgaire'. This deployment of punctuation is equally apparent in areas of Une Saison en enfer and Rimbaud's dynamic punctuation should be seen in the context of his desire to discover a new language to express the inexpressible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-72
    JournalJournal of European Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 1990


    • punctuation
    • dash
    • parentheses
    • italics


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