'Representations of the Grotesque in the Early Verse of Arthur Rimbaud'

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The article attempts to situate Rimbaud's concept of the grotesque in the wider context of nineteenth century literary definitions of the term. Comparing and contrasting Rimbaud's sense of the grotesque with that displayed in the work of others such as Baudelaire, Hugo, and Poe, the paper offers analysis of a number of poems from the poet's early verse. Beginning with the comic distortion of unattaractive characters such as the king in 'Le forgeron' and the religious hypocrite in 'Le Châtiment de Tartuffe', it proceeds to discuss the essential component of the horrific in Rimbaud, as seen in 'Bal des pendus' and 'Vénus Anadyomène', and to link it to features of Gothic literature such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . Continuing with a juxtaposition of 'Les Assis' and 'Accroupissements', where authority figures are presented in a grotesque and darkly humorous manner, the article emphasises how the Rimbaldian vision of the grotesque is inextricably linked to a developing lexicon designed to capture horror, disgust and alienation. In its conclusion, the paper considers a range of illustrations of vulgar, rare and technical terms. The Rimbaldian grotesque is thus seen to challenge the reader in terms of both vision and language.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)221-239
    JournalOrbis Litterarum
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1997

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Rimbaud Oeuvres, édition de S. Bernard et A.Guyaux, Garnier, Paris, 1987

    J.A.Cuddon The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 3rd edition, Penguin, London, 1991

    G. Macklin 'A Study of Beginnings and Finales in Rimbaud's Illuminations', NEOPHILOLOGUS, vol.68, 1984, pp.22-36.

    Baudelaire Oeuvres complètes I, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, 1975

    S. Beckett Fin de partie, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1957

    W. B. Yeats Selected Poetry, Pan Books, Macmillan, London, 1979

    N Wing Presnt Appearnces: Aspects of Poetic structure in Rimbaud's Illuminations, Romance Monographs Inc., Univeristy, Mississippi, 1974

    S. Murphy Le Premier Rimbaud ou l'apprentissage de la subversion, Editions du CNRS et Presses Universitaires de Lyon, Paris and Lyon, 1990

    M-J Whitaker La Structure du monde imaginaire de Rimbaud, Nizet, Paris, 1972

    J-P Richard 'Rimbaud ou la poésie du devenir' in Poésie et profondeur, Seuil, Paris, 1955


    • grotesque
    • horror
    • verse poetry
    • gothic


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