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Title: Landscape and the Imagination: Expressive Aesthetics in French Romantic Poetry
Authors: Quandt, Karen
Advisors: Blix, Goran
Nash, Suzanne
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Subjects: Romance literature
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: <italic>Landscape and the Imagination</italic> examines how French romantic poets represent the creative imagination as an aesthetic process. This study does not consider the landscape in poetry as an ekphrastic phenomenon, but instead looks at how the poet's perception, memory, and mental faculties form a productive medium that transforms immediate experience. Starting with Lamartine's <italic>Méditations poétiques</italic> (1820) and their debt to German Idealist theories of art, I show how the poet's appropriation of melody dematerializes the landscape to free the lyric voice. Though Lamartine later critiqued the imagination's lack of boundaries by turning to the physical experience of nature in the <italic>Nouvelles méditations poétiques</italic> (1823), he sealed readers' perceptions of romantic poetry as vague and limitless, prompting Victor Hugo to bolster an ephemeral lyric by incorporating the immediate experiences of history and visual media. By examining contemporary theories of painting, vision, and color, my second chapter traces Hugo's developing formulation of the visual imagination in the <italic>Odes et Ballades</italic> (1822-1828) and its subsequent representation as a diorama in <italic>Les Orientales</italic> (1829). More than picturesque fantasies of the East, Hugo's exotic landscapes refer back to the poet's filtering eye, which mediates between immediate experience and invention. My final chapter considers how Baudelaire aimed to preserve this tension between expansion and contraction in his lyric poems. By distilling various theories of the imagination and centering the work of art on the cognitive processing of memory and experience, Baudelaire undermined what had become the post-exilic Hugo's universalizing and expansive impulse. Drawing from theorists who stressed the role of the "real world" in the work of art (Goethe, Sainte-Beuve, Stendhal), as well as from Edgar Allan Poe's conception of art as the product of inductive analysis, Baudelaire compressed the imagination into the conflicting impulses of the brain. My reading of the "Tableaux parisiens" (<italic>Les Fleurs du mal</italic>, 1861) relates the critical story of how Baudelaire not only features the imagination as a process, but extracts its cerebral essence as he eliminates the subterfuge of romantic tropes, metaphysical systems, and material disturbances. Contrary to jaded contemporary readings of romantic lyric poetry as idealistic or escapist, or as reflecting a melancholic "sentiment de la nature", each of these poets acknowledges the imagination's combative dynamic. Far from being a motif, the imagination appears in each volume as a cogent and carefully developed contribution to the history of its idea.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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