'Rimbaud's 'Barbare': The Floating and Reverberating Text'

Gerald Macklin

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The article sets out to explore the semantic and linguistic properties of 'Barbare', generally agreed to be one of Rimbaud's most inaccessible poems and one of the most controversial of the Illuminations among Rimbaud scholars. It posits the dual structuring principles of reverberation and the floating fragment as central to the composition of the poem. After a résumé of previous critical readings (Osmond, Little, Hackett, Wing and others), the paper argues that through its innovative use of punctuation, its emphasis on the substantive over the verb and its internal musicality, 'Barbare' emerges as a key example of the Rimbaldian experimentation with the prose poem. A close reading of the text is undertaken in order to vindicate this evaluation and to highlight certain other important features. In the course of the analysis attention is paid to the sexual code possibly contained in the poem, to the piece's concluding line as an illustration of Rimbaud's predilection for the disorientating finale, to patterns of elemental imagery encountered in the text and to the insights provided into 'Barbare' by the work of Atle Kittang and Paule Lapeyre. The paper concludes that 'Barbare' is very representative of rRmbaud's desire for upheaval both visionary and linguistic.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)41-52
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1996

    Bibliographical note

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

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

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

    C.A.Hackett Rimbaud: A Critical Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981

    J-P Richard Poésie et profondeur, Seuil, Paris, 1955

    C.Zissmann Ce que révèle le manuscrit des Illuminations, Le bossu Bitor, Paris, 1989

    N.Wing Present Appearances: Aspects of Poetic Structure in Rimbaud's Illuminations, Romance Monographs Inc., University, Mississippi, 1974

    G.Macklin 'Aspects of the Rimbaldian Prose Poem: Pattern and Disorder in the Illuminations', ORBIS LITTERARUM, vol.45, 1990, pp. 248-272

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

    A.Guyaux Poétique du fragment. Essai sur les Illuminations de Rimbaud, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1985

    G.Macklin 'Perspectives on the role of punctuation in Rimbaud's illuminations', JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES, vol.XX, 1990, pp. 59-72

    P.Broome 'From Vision to Catastrophe in Rimbaud's Illuminations', FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES, vol. 15, no.4, October 1979, pp.361-379

    A.Kittang Discours et Jeu.Essai d'analyse des textes d'Arthur Rimbaud, Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, Grenoble, 1975

    P.Lapeyre Le Vertige de Rimbaud.Clé d'une perception poétique, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1981


    • strutcure
    • prose poem
    • punctuation
    • fragment
    • finale


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