'The Theatrical Imagination of Arthur Rimbaud'

Gerald Macklin

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    This article explores the theatrical inspiration in Rimbaud's vision and expression. It argues that theatricality is intrinsic to Rimbaud's poetry and that it manifests itself in a host of ways throughout the canon. From characters to stage lighting, from musical and operatic elemnts to all types of performances, Rimbaud's work is replete with references to the stage world. A variety of critics have identified these elements but there has been no coherent, sustained analysis of the phenomenon. The article identifies the range of theatrical terminologuy in Rimbaud's work and then begins its detailed analysis by a consideration of Rimbaud's decors and mises en scène. From there we move to the function of colour and light which can be seen in 'Le Bateau ivre' and is such a feature of the Illuminations in poems like 'Métropolitain' and 'Aube'. Song and music also feature prominently and the piece examines Rimbaud's self -definition as an "opéra fabuleux". All of these elements at times fuse, especially in Rimbaud's poèmes-fête where he conjures up celebratory performances linked to epiphany as in 'Parade'. Rimbaud himself revels in a multiplicity of imaginative identities in his poetry and in the Illuminations he is the inventor, the child, the sage, the mystic, the musician tio name but a few of his preferred roles.This can be traced throughout his poetry as can his notion that the poem istelf becomes a performance. Again, it is in the Illuminations that this feature is most manifest through poems like 'Parade', 'Scènes' and 'Fairy'. We see poems as tales or prayers with irony and parody used in these instances; particularly arresting beginnings and finales; and a dynamic deployment of punctuation. The prose poems become special linguistic performances as Rimbaud lays on a poetic "parade" for his readers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)131-150
    JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1987

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Rimbaud, Oeuvres, ed. S.Bernard & A.Guyaux, Classiques Garnier, Paris, 1987

    S.Bernard Le Poème en prose de Baudelaire jusqu'à nos jours, Nizet, Paris, 1959

    Rimbaud, Oeuvres, édition de S.Bernard, Garnier, Paris, 1980

    Y.Bonnefoy Rimbaud, Editions du Seuil, Ecrivains de toujours, Paris, 1961

    J.Plessen Promenade et Poésie: L'Expérience de la marche et du mouvement dans l'oeuvre de Rimbaud, Mouton, The Hague, 1967

    A.Py Rimbaud Illuminations, Droz, Geneva, 1967

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

    A.Kittang Discours et jeu: essai d'analyse des textes d'Arthur Rimbaud, Grenoble University Press, Grenoble, 1975

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

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

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

    J.P.Houston The Design of Rimbaud's Poetry, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1963

    Baudelaire Oeuvres complètes II, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, 1976

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    Y.Bonnefoy Le Nuage rouge, Mercure de France, Paris, 1977

    J.-P.Richard Poésie et profondeur, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1955

    G.Macklin 'The dialectic of "force" and "faiblesse" in Rimbaud's Illuminations', NOTTINGHAM FRENCH STUDIES, vol.17, no.2, 1978, pp.24-35

    Baudelaire, Oeuvres complètes I, texte établi, présenté et annoté par Claude Pichois, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, 1976

    R.Little 'Light on Rimbaud's 'Baou'', FRENCH STUDIES BULLETIN, no.10, spring 1984, pp.3-7

    R.Barthes Le Degré zéro de l'écriture, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1972

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

    P.Hamon 'Narrativité et lisibilité. Essai d'analyse d'un texte de Rimbaud'. POETIQUE, vol. 40, 1979, pp.453-464


    • theatricality
    • decor
    • lighting
    • music
    • performance


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