By Peter Nicholls
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Extra resources for Modernisms: A Literary Guide
Writing, too, is the very embodiment of something monstrous, a mutilation of the 'natural' selfby its transformation into style; so Baudelaire led the way in discarding the earlier Romantic view of poetry as the produet of lyrical inspiration (the expression of the poet's nature) and, following Poe, replaced it with an ideal of technical skill and craftsmanship. Discredited is Alphonse de Lamartine's lafty verdict that 'Ta create is beautiful, but to correct, to alter, to spoil, is poor and tedious.
In his work after Moby-Dick, Melville would discem even fewer signs of human connection, imprisoning his characters in a world like Bartleby's, where confinement is relieved only by the sight of a blank wall. Such images of a failed sociality are intended, like the claustrophobic tableaux of Baudelaire and the stone walls of Notes from Underground, as ever-present reminders of the limits of Ironies of the Modern 23 modernity. This world is hollowed-out, devoid of any transfiguring human presence, yet even as it compels the writer to adopt violent postures of recoil and 'revengeful indifference' (BSW, 163), it somehow retains the inscription of the sodal - a sign, but one now barely legible.
Perhaps his most radical idea in this regard is that the concept of genius might actually become the means of transcending private egotism: as art flows into life, the acts of genius might become in some new sense collective ones. As that paradox suggests, this is a politics which defines itself against any and all forms of politicallogic (hence Brecht's conclusion that it is 'impossible to turn Rimbaud's attitude - the attitude of the footloose vagabond who puts hirnself at the mercy of chance and turns his back upon society - into a model representation of a proletarian fighter').
Modernisms: A Literary Guide by Peter Nicholls