Capital Letters sheds new light on how literature has dealt with society’s most violent legal institution, the death penalty. It investigates this question through the works of three major French authors with markedly distinct political convictions and literary styles: Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, and Albert Camus. Working at the intersection of poetics, ethics, and law, Ève Morisi uncovers an unexpected transhistorical dialogue on both the modern death penalty and the ends and means of literature after the French Revolution. Through close textual analysis, careful contextualization, and the critique of violence forged by Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and René Girard, Morisi reveals that, despite their differences, Hugo, Baudelaire, and Camus converged in questioning France’s humanitarian redefinition of capital punishment dating from the late eighteenth century. Conversely, capital justice led all three writers to interrogate the functions, tools, and limits of their art. Capital Letters shows that the key modern debate on the political and moral responsibility, or autonomy, of literature crystallizes around the death penalty in works whose form disturbs the commonly accepted divide between aestheticism and engagement.
In nineteenth-century Paris, Charles Baudelaire provoked the excoriations of critics and was legally banned for corrupting public morality, yet he was a key influence on many later thinkers and writers, including Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, and T. S. Eliot. Baudelaire’s life was as controversial and vivid as his works, as Rosemary Lloyd reveals in Charles Baudelaire, a succinct yet learned recounting.
Lloyd argues that Baudelaire’s writings and life were intimately intertwined—and both were powerfully informed by contemporaneous political events, from his participation in the 1848 Revolution to the public morality codes that banned his controversial writings, such as Les fleurs du mal. The book traces the influence of these events and other political moments in his poems and essays and analyzes his works in this new light. Lloyd also examines the links between Baudelaire’s works and cultural movements of the time, from the rise and fall of Romanticism to symbolism, and explores his groundbreaking translations of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings into French.
Baudelaire’s tumultuous personal life figures large here, too, as Lloyd draws out fascinating aspects of his personality and daily life through analysis of archival writings of his friends and acquaintances. The book also documents his battles with syphilis and drug addiction, which ultimately resulted in his death. An engrossing and wholly readable biography, Charles Baudelaire will be essential for scholars and Baudelaire admirers alike.
Is giving possible? Is it possible to give without immediately entering into a circle of exchange that turns the gift into a debt to be returned? This question leads Jacques Derrida to make out an irresolvable paradox at what seems the most fundamental level of the gift's meaning: for the gift to be received as a gift, it must not appear as such, since its mere appearance as gift puts it in the cycle of repayment and debt.
Derrida reads the relation of time to gift through a number of texts: Heidegger's Time and Being, Mauss's The Gift, as well as essays by Benveniste and Levi-Strauss that assume Mauss's legacy. It is, however, a short tale by Baudelaire, "Counterfeit Money," that guides Derrida's analyses throughout. At stake in his reading of the tale, to which the second half of this book is devoted, are the conditions of gift and forgiveness as essentially bound up with the movement of dissemination, a concept that Derrida has been working out for many years.
For both readers of Baudelaire and students of literary theory, this work will prove indispensable.
As New York and Paris began to modernize, new modes of entertainment, such as panoramas, dioramas, and photography, seemed poised to take the place of the more complex forms of literary expression. Dioramas and photography were invented in Paris but soon spread to America, forming part of an increasingly universal idiom of the spectacle. This brave new world of technologically advanced but crudely mimetic spectacles haunts both Whitman's vision of New York and Baudelaire's view of Paris. In New York-Paris, Katsaros explores the images of the mid-nineteenth-century city in the poetry of both Whitman and Baudelaire and seeks to demonstrate that, by projecting an image of the other's city onto his own, each poet tried to resist the apparently irresistible forward momentum of modernity rather than create a paradigmatically happy mixture of "high" and "low" culture.
The poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) has been labeled the very icon of modernity, the scribe of the modern city, and an observer of an emerging capitalist culture. Seeing Double reconsiders this iconic literary figure and his fraught relationship with the nineteenth-century world by examining the way in which he viewed the increasing dominance of modern life. In doing so, it revises some of our most common assumptions about the unresolved tensions that emerged in Baudelaire’s writing during a time of political and social upheaval.
Françoise Meltzer argues that Baudelaire did not simply describe the contradictions of modernity; instead, his work embodied and recorded them, leaving them unresolved and often less than comprehensible. Baudelaire’s penchant for looking simultaneously backward to an idealized past and forward to an anxious future, while suspending the tension between them, is part of what Meltzer calls his “double vision”—a way of seeing that produces encounters that are doomed to fail, poems that can’t advance, and communications that always seem to falter. In looking again at the poet and his work, Seeing Double helps to us to understand the prodigious transformations at stake in the writing of modern life.
Undeniably one of the modern world's greatest literary figures, Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) left behind a correspondence documenting in intimate detail a life as intense in its extremes as his poetry. This extensive selection of his letters—many translated for the first time into English—depicts a poet divided between despair and elation, thoughts of suicide and intimations of immortality; a man who could write to his mother, "We're obviously destined to love one another, to end our lives as honestly and gently as possible," and say in the next sentence, "I'm convinced that one of us will kill the other"; who courted and then suffered the controversy provoked by his masterpiece, Les Fleurs du mal; who struggled throughout his life with syphilis contracted in his youth, near-intolerable financial restrictions imposed by his stepfather, and conflicting feelings of failure and revolt dating from his school days.
Writing to family, friends, and lovers, Baudelaire reveals the incidents and passions that went into his poetry. In letters to editors, idols, and peers—Hugo, Flaubert, Vigny, Wagner, Cladel, among others—he elucidates the methods and concerns of his own art and criticism and comments tellingly on the arts and politics of his day. In all, ranging from childhood to days shortly before his death, these letters comprise a complex and moving portrait of the quintessential poet and his time.