'Prayer and Parody in Rimbaud's 'Dévotion''

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper offers a detailed reading of Rimbaud's "obscure" prose pom 'Dévotion' from the Illuminations. The reading is based on the central principle that the text is modelled on the form of devotional prayer, a model that Rimbaud adopts only to parody it and transgress against it. The litany is the form adopted by Rimbaud in 'Dévotion' and close inspection of the poem shows that he plays with the litanical format and finally subverts its laws to construct something quite different. The poem violates the conventions of its adopted form even though in its early stages it seems to adhere quite faithfully to an established pattern. There is a sense of defamiliarization and dépaysement as the reader encounters strange female figures to whom dedications are made in a highly esoteric spiritual world of the poet's own invention. The odd term "Baou" is given attention as is the change of tone from the reverential to the ironic and desultory in mid-poem. The poem may be seen as a ludic text where Rimbaud experiments with the idea of poem as prayer and in its closing stages, as is so often the case in Rimbaud's prose poems, we appear to move towards something more authentic and vital. The laconic and ambiguous closing lines capture a sense of a new and personal spirituality far removed from traditional forms of prayer.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)281-282
    JournalFrench Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1997

    Bibliographical note

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    • prayer
    • parody
    • prose poem
    • finale
    • structure


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